Review: Warrington R&B Festival – The Pyramid Arts Centre

Posted on: Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012

Saturday, 8th September

The Acoustic Stage

Starting an hour after the main stage and hosted by festival organiser Dave Sawyer, the acoustic stage was scheduled to be active between the sets on the main stage.

First up was Shrewsbury–based Blues Boy Dan, who is making an increasingly impressive impact on the British blues scene. His incredible, Howlin’ Wolf-styled vocals and his dextrous guitar accompaniment delivered excellent versions of a number of blues classics including “Stormy Monday Blues” and “Born Under A Bad Sign” and a terrific rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”. He encored with his own distinctive interpretation of Dylan’s “Ballad Of Hollis Brown” to complete a superb set.

The father and son duo of Colin and Joe Walker, undertaking their first acoustic appearance at a blues festival, were a revelation. Colin’s sublime vocals and the duo’s beautifully integrated guitar work combined effortlessly to provide an absolute treat. Their set included wonderful versions of John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain”, Peter Green’s “Oh Well” and the Jimi Hendrix gem, “Little Wing”.

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The extraordinary standard continued with a memorable set from Tommy Allen and Johnny Hewitt. Vocal duties were shared while Tommy underpinned the action, multi-tasking on guitar, bass drum and hi-hat cymbal and Johnny spun his magic on harmonica. The highly entertaining set included an energetic delivery of Kim Wilson’s “Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You”, a fabulous version of SBWII’s “Nine below Zero”, complete with a stunning harp solo from Johnny Hewitt, and a belting airing of “Rock This House”. It was a highly professional performance, which was epitomised by an extended, brilliantly- improvised solo from Johnny Hewitt as Tommy replaced a broken string on his guitar.

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The final act on the acoustic stage was Forty4, who had already opened proceedings on the main stage in fine style. Their toned-down incarnation was achieved by a switch to acoustic guitar by Neil Partington and Paul Starkey and the use of percussive brushes by drummer Nick Lauro. Dave Goldberg and Bill Price completed the line-up on keyboards and bass guitar respectively. They kicked things off with Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” before serving a tasty helping of New Orleans funk. The splendidly varied set also included a cracking version of “Reconsider, Baby” and an energetic delivery of Roosevelt Sykes’s “Forty-Four”. The icing on the already delightful cake was the addition of Johnny Hewitt to the mix, which featured a tremendous rendition of “Cross My Heart”.

The acoustic stage was a considerable success, very effectively complementing the excellent activity on the main stage.

Words: LIONEL ROSS

Pictures: GRAHAME RHODES

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(Main stage review to follow)

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