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

Posted on: Wednesday, Sep 12, 2012

Saturday, 8th September

The Main Stage

The main stage at this year’s Warrington R&B Festival saw a nice varied bill put together by promoter Dave Sawyer – with something for everyone, from swing and jump blues, to some classic rock leanings and no short supply of pure blues from a very sturdy British line-up, who all thoroughly entertained a decent crowd on a scorching September day outside.

Opening up proceedings were the very fine Liverpool/Wirral band, Forty4 – namely Neil Partington (lead vocals and guitar), Paul Starkey (guitar), Dave Goldberg (keyboards), Bill Price (bass) and Nick Lauro (drums). A fine one-hour long set saw prime examples of their self-styled ‘Rhythm ‘n’ Groove’, with standouts being a tough “Black Cat Bone”, a swing through the blues chestnut of “T-Bone Shuffle” and a glorious take on the Cray/Clapton composition, “Old Love”, with brilliant solo by Paul Starkey.

The band deservedly encored with some N’Awlins funk on “Get Out Of My Life Woman” – a sparkling opening to the main stage indeed. A special word for the ‘depping’ Dave Goldberg, standing in for Glen Lewis, with some real ‘feel’ on his keyboard playing.

Next up were festival regulars, The Escape Committee, who delivered their very tight and polished set of classic rock covers. As ever the Warrington band were led by frontman Peter Frampton, on guitar and lead vocals – with ex-Climax Blues Band man George Glover shining on keyboards. He was given his share of the spotlight on some nice extended solos. The band don’t really do much blues, but nonetheless, are very entertaining and I particularly like their versions of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Badge”.  They also garnered a well-deserved encore, a rocking romp through Albert Lee’s “Sweet Little Lisa”.

The biggest band of the day, numerically, were The Firebird Smith Blues Band, numbering eight in total – they changed the sound of the festival again with their punchy horn-driven soul blues, led by the stylish vocals of Firebird Smith himself. The band gig regularly in the North West and were well received here, featuring some of the Portland, Oregon singer Lloyd Jones’s tunes and their current single, “A Place In My Heart”. Sadly hopping between stages meant I didn’t get to see all the set.

Next up was the highlight of the day for me, The Cadillac Kings, who have few equals on the live scene in the UK and Europe. The band – Mike Thomas (lead vocals and slide guitar), Gary Potts (harmonica and vocals), Mike Adcock (piano and accordion), Mal Barclay (guitar and vocals), Paul Cuff (bass) and Roy Webber (drums and vocals) – were on blistering form with their mix of blues, swing, zydeco and more. The set was a prime taster for their brand new live cd, “Gonna Tell Your Mama”, with most of the tracks featured here.

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The band have many strengths, notably Mike Thomas’s brilliant lyrics (the Rick Estrin of the UK!) and the fact that four of the members take vocal turns. Highlights were a plenty, including Gary Potts singing and blowing his heart out on Rod Piazza’s “Somebody”; the wry and hilarious lyrics of Thomas’s “Just A Matter Of Time”; a croaky Roy Webber delivering the New Orleans classic, “Sick And Tired”, as well as plenty of guitar fireworks from the fantastic Mal Barclay, together with a couple of vocals. A marvellous hour plus from one of our national treasures – long may they prosper!

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Closing the day were The Producers, the band reunited with a new line-up a couple of years ago, but are still helmed by the Dorset-based duo of Harry Skinner (lead vocals and guitar) and Dave Saunders (bass and vocals), together with Ray Drury (keyboards) and Biff Smith (drums).

The band were firmly at the top of the British blues tree when they called it a day but now, on the back of a superb album, “London Blues”, they are back touring and showing they are still as classy as ever. The set here contained a sprinkling of covers – namely the classic Lazy Lester tune “Sugar Coated Love” and a brace of Howlin’ Wolf classics – “Killing Floor” and “How Many More Years”.

They also featured plenty of the bands own songs, including a fair sprinkling from the latest release – the lovely, soulful “Some People Say” being a standout.  Harry Skinner is a great singer and fine player and the quartet are as tight a band as we have; and his long-time ‘right hand man’ Dave Saunders is the perfect foil.

A great end to a most enjoyable day, and here’s hopefully to next year – well done to all concerned!

Words & pictures: GRAHAME RHODES

 

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