I first saw Chantel McGregor very low down on the bill at the Cambridge Rock Festival back in 2010, when she wowed the crowd with a blues-based set featuring some amazing guitar pyrotechnics, and left me wonder how someone so young could learn to play guitar like that. Her début album, “Like No Other”, released earlier this year, showed she could stretch beyond blues to hard rock and even pure pop. Now in the middle of an extensive club tour taking in venues throughout the UK, she came to London’s legendary 100 Club on Thursday night.
Fronting a classic power-trio with Richard Richie on bass, and Martin Rushworth on drums, Chantel cuts a diminutive figure on stage. But one thing I immediately noticed is now much more stage presence she has compared with a year ago. She’s not just playing dazzling guitar, although there’s never any shortage of that, but she’s now putting on a highly entertaining show too.
Her two hour set covered all the varied styles from her album, her take on some classic blues standards, and even extended to a prog interlude with a very heavy take on the closing “Worm” section of Yes’ “Starship Trooper”. Her guitar playing was as superb as I’d come to expect; the extended workout on Robin Trower’s “Dreams” was utterly mesmerising, and some spectacular one-handed playing reminded me of the late Randy California. Despite her obvious technical skill, there’s more than enough fire, soul and passion in her playing too. But it wasn’t all shredding guitar. The acoustic interlude that including her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” was beautiful, and certainly had something of an Odin Dragonfly feel about it.
Chantel is now far more than just a virtuoso guitarist, and far more than just a blues artist. The original material shows the work of a talented singer-songwriter who can write and perform in a host of diverse musical styles. And seeing her on stage it’s clear she’s rapidly developing into a confident and charismatic live performer too, a big smile on her face, exchanging between-song banter with the crowd all evening making for a great atmosphere, and rising above a few niggling technical problems to deliver an electrifying show.