Tag Archives: Chantel McGregor

Chantel McGregor, The Zephyr Lounge Leamington

Chantel McGregor at The Zephyr Lounge, Leamingon SpaBlues-rock guitarist and singer-songwriter bought her power trio to The Zephyr Lounge in Leamington Spa for the first date of her Autumn and Winter tour to promote her album “Lose Control”, to be released in October. I hadn’t caught one of her gigs since the tail end of last year, so this is the first time I’ve seen the band with new bassist Colin Sutton, who looks for all the world like a younger version of Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt.

The raw and dirty guitar sound on the opening number “Caught Out” set the tone for the evening. Most of the set came from the new album, interspersed with favourites from the début “Like No Other”. The reworked blues standards and Hendrix covers that filled out her set in earlier days are gone now, save for her version of Robin Trower’s “Daydream”, retained as excuse for the set’s one remaining extended guitar wig-out. Even the mid-set acoustic interlude is now originals rather than covers, with the delicately beautiful “Anaesthetize” a particular highlight.

The new material comes over very powerfully live, to the extent that some of them surpassed the more familiar songs in the set. Although they’re still plenty of soloing with the context of the songs, there’s definitely a greater emphasis on songwriting than on guitar pyrotechnics. It’s also more hard rock than blues; with a heavier, darker sound; Chantel has cited the likes of Soundgarden and The Stone Temple Pilots as influences for some of the songs. As is always the case with her gigs, there is a fire and passion to the performance. She ended the set with the prog-flavoured epic “Walk on Land” with its spectacular solo ,a song that gave the impression it will be an album highlight and live favourite for years to come. All of which makes the album more eagerly anticipated.

Chantel and her band will be on tour across Britain and continental Europe for much of the rest of the year. Catch them if you can, you will not regret it.

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Chantel McGregor announces new album Lose Control

Chantel McGregor has announced her long-awaited second album “Lose Control”, released in October

Guitarist and singer-songwriter Chantel McGregor will release her highly anticipated new album, Lose Control, on Friday 9th October 2015 on her independent boutique label Tis Rock Music. The new album is the follow up to her critically acclaimed 2011 debut solo album, Like No Other.After four years of touring and festival appearances, Chantel returns with a vengeance with ten new songs that not only salutes contemporary rock, but shows her gradual transition from conventional Blues to a harder, bigger and bolder rock sound with progressive influences.

From the sound clips it sounds like a far darker and heavier album than her debut. She’s taking pre-orders now from her website.

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Best Gigs of 2014

Chantel McGregor at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

Unlike almost everyone else, I didn’t get to see Kate Bush’s already legendary shows at Hammersmith in the summer. But I did get to see plenty of other bands, from festivals to free-entry pub gigs, so many in fact that I lost eventually lost count. I do remember nine in thirteen days in December, after which I collapsed in a heap.

These are ten of the best of the year, listed in chronological order save for the gig of the year. Several of them are from festivals, where I’ve highlighted individual sets rather than the festival as a whole.

The Pineapple Thief, HRH Prog, March

The first day of HRH Prog was somewhat patchy, with rather too many rather one-dimensional acts. The Pineapple Thief were the exception, with a magnificently intense set that stood head and shoulders above anyone else on Friday’s bill, including headliners The Flower Kings.

Riverside, O2 Academy, April

Poland’s finest proved they’re every bit as good live as they are on record, the perfect band for anyone still missing Porcupine Tree, but with enough of an identity of their own to sound like any kind of pastiche.

Panic Room, Gloucester Guildhall, April

2014 saw Panic Room back firing on all cylinders again after a somewhat shaky 2013, with the new lineup with then-new guitarist Adam O’Sullivan fully bedded it. They kicked off with an impressive performance at HRH Prog in March, and were on consistently good live form thereafter. It’s hard to single out any one show, but this early one in Gloucester was as good as any.

Magenta, Trinity Live, May

Magenta were only added to the bill of the all-day charity gig very late in the day when Christina’s cancer treatment was progressing well enough to allow her to perform. It’s always remarkable how good Magenta are live considering how infrequently they perform; but this time they completely stole the show. And they deserved it.

Jeff Lorber, Swansea Jazz Festival, June

Most of this years gigs have been prog and metal, so the Swansea Jazz Festival was a change of pace. Among others it featured the veteran trumpeter Dick Pierce, the violin-driven gypsy jazz of Sarah Smith, and the jazz-rock of Protect the Beat. But the highlight of the weekend was Friday night’s set of jazz-fusion from pianist Jeff Lorber. The world of prog contains plenty of virtuoso musicians, but jazz can be on another level.

Mostly Autumn, The Box in Crewe, July

Mostly Autumn have bounced back very strongly after a hit-and-miss 2013, touring to promote the best album they’ve made in years and for the first time playing the new album in full on tour. Despite a fluctuating lineup in the early part of the year due some members’ prior commitments, which saw former flautist Angela Gordon standing in for a couple of gigs, they were back to the sort of live form they displayed in 2011 and 2012. An early highlight was their long-overdue return to Crewe in July.

Mr So and So, Resonance, August

Resonance was a strange festival, with an eclectic mix of bands playing across multiple stages, including a small room tucked away at up at the top of the building. One of the bands in that small room, Mr So and So, were an unexpected highlight, a band who have improved immensely over the past couple of years, with Charlotte Evans coming into her own as a singer.

Chantel McGregor, Cambridge Rock Festival, August

The Cambridge Rock Festival was another highlight of the year, with strong sets from Mostly Autumn, Mr So and So, The Windmill, Cloud Atlas and others. One of the highlights was the guitar-shredding set on Friday from Chantel McGregor, who simply owns the main stage at that festival.

Fish, Reading Sub89, December

Fish had planned to tour the UK in May but was forced to cancel due to Guitarist Robin Boult’s injury. The rescheduled shows in December looked in doubt at one point when the man himself went down with viral laryngitis on the continental leg. But in the end all was fine, and the band were on fire, with a completely new setlist compared to last year, with old favourites like “Big Wedge” and “Incubus” as well as the powerful High Wood suite from his newest album played in full.

It’s hard to narrow things down to just ten, so honourable mentions to Touchstone and IOEarth’s Christmas show in Bilston, The Tangent’s mesmerising performance at Celebr8.3 in Islington, Tarja rocking out the O2 Academy, Steve Rothery at Bush Hall, Opeth’s oldies-heavy set at The Roundhouse, and Alestorm’s booze and piracy in Reading.

It’s even harder to pick the best of the lot, but there can only be one, and this came towards the end of the year.

Marillion, The Forum, December

Even after more than 30 years in the business, Marillion never disappoint live, and their sell-out December Christmas shows were no exception. What was surprising was the number of real oldies they haven’t played for years; “Slàinte Mhath”, “Warm Wet Circles/This Time of the Night” and even “Garden Party” from the Fish era, and several song from “Seasons End” including the magnificent title track. It gave the impression of a band comfortable in their own skins and reconciled with their own past in a way they weren’t a few years back.

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A Battleship of Gigs

November and December are always crunch times for gigs, when everyone seems to be on tour at once, and gig-goers talk of bands playing Battleships on their diaries. The beginning of December saw an actual Battleship; four gigs in four days. Since we’re nearly a month after the gigs, what follows aren’t reviews as such, but do give me an excuse to post some photos.

The first of those was The Pineapple Thief at the O2 Academy in London, a good gig even if it didn’t quite reach the mesmerising heights of their performance at HRH Prog back in March.

Chantel McGregor at Bilston Robin 2

Then it was up to Bilston Robin 2 for Chantel McGregor. With her long-awaited second album now recorded and due for release early in the new year, she’s completely revamped her setlist from that of the past couple of years. Gone are the reworkings of blues standards, and her take on Robin Trower’s “Daydream” was the only cover in the set. In their place she played most of the new album, going from hard rock to solo acoustic numbers. This album is going to be well worth the wait.

Richie Richards, Bassist for Chantel McGregor at Bilston Robin 2

Sadly this run of gigs marked the farewell for her long-term bassist Ritchie Richards, a talented musician who always made an excellent foil for Chantel’s guitar playing.

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn at Bilston Robin 2 on 6-Dec-2014

Then it was two back-to-back Mostly Autumn Christmas shows, in Manchester and Bilston. With the venue booked solid with panto, there wasn’t the traditional hometown show at York Grand Opera House this year to serve as a gathering of fans, but these two shows made up for it. The set was much the same as earlier in the year, with the concept album “Dressed in Voices” played in full as the second half the the show. This year they’re shaken up the Christmas encores, with Chris de Burgh#’s “A Spaceman Came Travelling” and, of all things, the theme song from Frozen.

The following weekend turned out to be an aircraft carrier…

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Chantel McGregor tour dates

Chantel McGregor Tour Poster

Blues-rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Chantel McGregor will be on tour for much of October, November and December. If you haven’t seen her live before, she’s not to be missed.

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Cambridge Rock Festival 2014 – Part One

Chantel McGregor at the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival

The Cambridge Rock Festival is a four-day event on the first weekend of August, with a focus on blues, classic rock and progressive rock. 2014 is the festival’s eleventh year, and the sixth to be held at the current location just outside the city. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday Chantel McGregor

Chantel McGregor at The Flowerpot Derby in December 2012

A very happy birthday to award-winning guitarist and vocalist Chantel McGregor.

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Gigs of the Year – 2013 Edition

Panic Room at Sound Control in Manchester

I went to so many gigs in 2013 I ended up losing count; everything from local cover bands in pubs to rock monsters in enormodomes, and everything in between. There have been a few gigs outside my usual comfort zone, such as The Damned and The Orb; I even went to see Iron Maiden at the O2 Arena, a band I last saw in 1982.  I even went to see a Fleetwood Mac tribute band…

Picking a best-of list out of all those gigs is a hard one, but these six stand out as ones to remember for all the right reasons.

Marillion – UK Convention Saturday

Marillion’s fan conventions are always amazing experiences, with a hall full of hardcore fans and three sets with completely different setlists over the three nights. The end result is an electric atmosphere that few regular gigs can approach. All three nights in Wolverhampton were amazing experiences, but for me the best of the three was Saturday, with the dark, intense concept album “Brave” played in its entirety.

Fish – Islington O2 Academy

I got to see Fish four times this year, twice in his spring tour before the band went into the studio to record the album, and twice in the autumn on the tour to promote the album. All were great shows, with the big man on superb form, the London gig in May was a real standout.

Steve Hackett – Hammersmith Apollo

I wasn’t entirely convinced by Steve Hackett’s restatement of his Genesis legacy in the studio; the re-recorded versions seemed to add little to the much-loved favourites. But live it was a completely different experience; a triumphant and uplifting celebration of the magnificent music that deservedly won many standing ovations.  The Guardian completely missed the point.

Panic Room + Morpheus Rising – Manchester Sound Control

Panic Room have had a few ups and downs this year, forced to regroup following the departure of lead guitarist and founder member Paul Davies. Their tour in early summer featured Morpheus Rising’s Pete Harwood standing in guitar doing double duty with both the headliners and his own band. The tour ended with two superb shows in Bilston and Manchester demonstrating the band’s ability to triumph over adversity, with great support from Morpheus Rising, themselves premiering a lot of new material.

Mostly Autumn + Chantel McGregor, Islington O2 Academy

Mostly Autumn have been a bit hit-and-miss as live band during 2013, with fluctuating lineups from gig to gig due to various members’ other commitments. But the stars aligned when they came to London in Ocober. Chantel McGregor’s incendiary opening set gave the whole show the feel of a co-headliner, and Mostly Autumn’s barnstorming set had to be one of the best shows they’ve done in the past two or three years.

Steven Wilson, Royal Albert Hall

Steve Wilson came to London’s most prestigious major venue with his band including Theo Travis, Guthie Govan, Nick Beggs and Zappa alumnus Chad Wakerman, with the combined virtuosity you’d expect from a top-flight jazz ensemble rather than typical rock band. They proceed to delivere a mesmerising set drawn almost entirely from Steve Wilson’s three recent solo work, reinventing 70s Mellotron-drenched progressive rock to make it relevant to the 21st century. There are still people missing Porcupine Tree, but on the strength of shows like this, his new band are very good trade.

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All Loved Up

Sometimes I wonder if the above video played a part in getting Fish’s song “All Loved Up” into the Polish singles chart. It represents exactly the sort of vacuous celebrity culture the song skewers. It epitomises the way mass-produced corporate pop is completely divorced from the world of real musicians making real music.

It’s mechanically-recovered extruded music product, featuring talent-free “artists” who are famous for being famous, whose success is based solely on the amount of money spent promoting them. There is absolutely no chance that this song will touch anyone’s soul and change their lives.

The “guitarist” is a embarrassed-looking model who looks as though she’s never seen anyone play a guitar in her life. But in words of manager Angelina Konkol. “It is better to look at beautiful models pretending to play the guitar than ugly musicians who actually play the guitar”.

What a load of cobblers.

Don’t want that. Watch this instead.

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Mostly Autumn, Islington Academy

On Saturday October 5th, Mostly Autumn returned to Islington Academy, their regular London venue since the closure of the much-loved Astoria.

Mostly Autumn traditionally play a lengthy show, with two sets and an interval. But for selected dates on their Autumn and Winter tour they’ve decided to do something a bit different, playing a shorter and tighter set, with guitarist and vocalist Chantel McGregor as special guest.

Chantel fronts a classic blues-rock power trio. Opening with one of her most hard rocking tracks, “Caught Out”, Chantel played an intense guitar-shredding set, mixing songs from her album “Like No Other” with extended guitar workouts, including her lengthy cover of Robin Trower’s “Daydream”, finally finishing with a very heavy version of the instrumental end section of Yes’ “Starship Trooper”. With two talented sidesmen her band play an awful lot of notes for three people, and one hour went very, very quickly. She deserves to have won over a lot of new fans with that performance.

Last time I saw Mostly Autumn live back in July they were a little disappointing; while it was still an enjoyable show that impressed those who hadn’t seen them before, they didn’t quite have their usual magic. But tonight was a very different experience. The day before the gig bought the unexpected but very welcome news that Anne-Marie Helder would be performing with the band for the two dates over the weekend.

Maybe it was a large appreciative crowd who had been warmed up and then some by the superb support act. Maybe it was Anne-Marie Helder’s presence on stage that inspired the rest of the band. Maybe it was a bit of both. But whatever it was, the band pulled out all the stops to deliver what had to be their best show this year, possibly one of the best in the three years since Olivia took over as lead singer. The energy in the room was incredible, and there was something special about the on-stage chemistry; everyone, especially Anne-Marie, clearly enjoying every minute.

The set is much the same as they’ve been playing all year, with a greater emphasis on the hard rock side of their music than on their atmospheric epics. Olivia is singing lead a greater proportion of the time, much of it on newer songs written for her voice such as the Nightwish-like “Unquiet Tears” and the emotive closing epic “Questioning Eyes”. They’ve got the pacing right too; a high spot was “Never the Rainbow”, “Deep In Borrowdale” and “Nowhere to Hide” in quick succession raising the energy levels in the second half of the set.

Unlike their last appearance at this venue, rather marred by poor sound, this time a great sound mix meant you could hear every voice and instrument from the seven piece band clearly, Liam Davison’s understated guitar work complimenting Bryan Josh’s always great lead playing, and Anne-Marie’s vocal harmonies a great foil for Olivia. And it’s great to hear her flute lines on songs like “The Dark Before The Dawn”.

This was Mostly Autumn in full flight, a great show even by the standards of their best ones over the past couple of years, made extra special by a support act strong enough to make the whole evening feel close to being a co-headliner.

Mostly Autumn will be playing further shows with Chantel McGregor in December, including their annual home town showcase at the Grand Opera House in York.

Photos © Howard Rankin, used with kind permission

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