Live review: The Billy Walton Band – Bluefunk at Poynton Legion: 28th June

Posted on: Thursday, Jul 2, 2015

Bluefunk is developing such a strong affinity with the rich vein of fabulous bands from the Jersey Shore that I am half expecting a call from’ The Boss’ himself in the near future. And why not indeed? The wave sent out last night by Billy Walton and his utterly superb rocking blues outfit could easily become a tsunami by the time it finally reaches ‘Noo Joisey’.

Subject as they were to vagaries and tribulations of touring in the crumbling UK, this incredibly professional group of musicians set out from Peterborough giving themselves five hours to complete the journey to Poynton with an estimated drive time of three hours.

Having tangled with the A1 for an hour achieving one mile of progress it became obvious that the drive time needed readjusting. It turned out that five hours was just enough arriving around 6.30 pm which gave them enough time to set up quickly, grab a takeaway and eat it before the early birds started arriving at 7.30 (doors scheduled for 8 pm) The room was already a quarter-full when the band took the stage for a soundcheck.

Here was a pro band in action. Simon our excellent sound engineer had them line checked in five minutes and then Billy turned to his troops “I want a shuffle in E gimme what I need “ and away they went. Four sublime minutes of playing a shuffle with all soloists featured and the job was done.  The first excited applause of the evening set the mood for the evening. The band retired with a smile for everyone there.

They spent the next hour, amongst the punters while the room continued filling, then just a few minutes after 9 pm they quickly mustered on stage and started their first set in a high gear. The concentration from the excited audience was palpable. They were to a man and woman instantly sucked in to what was unfolding before them.

The opening offer drew to a close but before the audience could deliver their appreciation it quickly segued into another juicy offering robbing them of the chance. When that finally came to a close the audience quite frankly went ‘apeshit’ Many were instantly on their feet whooping and hollering as if they were begging an encore after a two hour show. Utterly extraordinary, I have very seldom seen a reaction of that magnitude to a band’s opening in my life. It boded well for the evening.

The sound was glorious, full on, brassy, funky, with the rumbling Hammond B3 style keyboards rolling out waves of liquid runs and stabs. Billy’s rhythm guitar style was as good as I have heard in a long while, locked in with the bass and drums driving us all along the Jersey shore, all 127 rocking miles, with a long stay at Asbury Park, the root of so much good music. Then when Billy stepped forward and cut loose he transformed instantly into a guitar hero, all the chops, all the licks and just the right amount of gadgets to kick in when he wanted to lift something to the sky, a complete player and one worthy of elevating to star status.

What of his band? Well you might expect a player of Billy’s excellence and pedigree (five years as an Asbury Juke with Southside Johnny) to surround himself with others of similar quality and so he does. William Paris lays a foundation on bass solid enough to support the Empire State Building and together with the excellent John D’Angelo on drums provides a backbone for the band so strong they could dance a fandango all over them all night long wearing pit boots and they wouldn’t skip a beat. For the most part you don’t even notice them which is the sign of a super high quality rhythm section in this kind of band. If they ever stopped, my God, you’d know they were gone.

The brass section was dynamite, Tom Petraccaro-Tenor Sax and Matt Fischer-Trombone, two crazy guys who never stopped moving whether playing or holding. They were fantastic to watch and even better to listen to. On keyboards Sam Sherman was equally dynamic with his B3 soundalike rig he hammered and slithered along the keys and comedy danced around while sounding like Booker T with attitude. These three guys were just what the original excellent power three piece needed to be transformed into a full on Asbury Park, outhouse door banging, soulbluesfunkrock band. A party in a can.

You will often hear at a show – “the band were very tight.” This band redefined tight. Billy’s penchant for segueing classic tunes at the drop of a hat into whatever number they maybe playing at the time, keeps the band and audience alike on their toes ready for whatever is thrown at them. A brilliantly  entertaining ploy which delighted the audience and blew them away at the same time by the band’s ability to follow Billy’s every mischievous twist and turn with utter perfection.

This exceptional performance (well over two hours) comprised great original pieces, many from their superb recent release ‘Wish For What You Want’ (the title track is a belter), but the bonus with this band is they have the self confidence coupled with the ability to throw in random classics and nail ‘em to the wall. The ovation at the end was standing, obviously. Very loud and very long. People are already inundating me with demands to get them back very soon. I am thinking about it.

GARRY WHITE

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