Tag Archives: The 100 Club

Purson – The 100 Club, London

Purson are not the only band that have a charismatic fromtwoman with a strong visual image. But unlike many of their peers where the male musicians all look like they’ve wandered in from the street, whole band has an equally strong look. And they have a sound that matches their look. Purson do the late sixties vibe so well both visually and sonically it’s as if they’d just stepped out of the time machine from 1969.

They came to London’s legendary 100 Club on the tour to promote their new album “Desire’s Magic”, though the album itself isn’t out for another month. Not only was the venue close to a sell-out, but they attracted a wide range of ages; there were people there old enough to have remembered late 60s psychedelia the first time around, as well as younger metal fans whose parents might not have been born back then.

Opening with a song from the new record featuring, of all things, some kazoo, they proceeded to rock the house with an electrifying set. They drew heavily from the forthcoming album interspersed with highlights from their previous releases. Of the familiar numbers “Rocking Horse” and “Spiderweb Farm” from their début were early highlights. One standout from the new songs came close to the end, “Sky Parade”, a melodic and atmospheric epic with Rosalie on 12-string guitar. The encore of “Wanted Man” from the EP “In The Meantime” rocked out with a combination of wah-wah and e-bow, and a spectacular vocals-as-a-lead instrument.

Playing much of the lead guitar as well as fronting the band, Rosalie Cunningham is the obvious focus of the band, playing mean and dirty blues riffs, swirling psychedelic atmospherics, and reeling off solos with heavy use of that wah-wah pedal. Bassist Justin Smith was tremendously impressive with sort of riffs and lead runs you don’t normally expect from the bassist in a twin guitar band. Likewise drummer Raphael Mura treated his kit as a lead instrument, gurning like a guitarist and frequently channelling Animal from The Muppets. One unexpected moment was an impromptu world’s quietest drum solo while Rosalie dealt with an out-of-tune 12-string. Perhaps the only minus point was that the keys were too low in the mix; from the front they were sometimes barely audible over the sound and fury of the rhythm section.

But aside from that, Purson were firing on all cylinders tonight, the enthusiasm of the packed crowd adding to the intensity of the gig. The new material came over powerfully live, whetting the appetite for the new album when it’s released in April.

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Rebecca Downes – The 100 Club

Singer-songwriter Rebecca Downes came to London’s legendary 100 Club on a Tuesday night for the launch of her excellent second album “Believe”. Despite it being a school night still drew an appreciably-sized crowd., and you could tell this was going to be a blues gig by the number of Nord Electro keyboards on the stage. Blues-rockers love these distinctive red instruments, and there were no fewer that three of them at the beginning of the evening. Only one belonged to Rebecca Downes’ band; the other two were for the two support bands.

The first of those supports, Bruce Lok, had an interesting sound. On the slower numbers his voice had something of the late Ian Curtis, not what you normally expect from a blues band. There were moments that suggested what Joy Division might have sounded like had they played lounge jazz rather than post-punk, though he sang in more of a rock style on the up-tempo numbers. It did leave the impression of an artist who undoubtedly has some talent, but has yet to find a musical identity.

The second support, Greg Coulson, was far more old-school rock’n'roll musically, and had a sense of showmanship the first act lacked. Greg doubled up on keys and guitar, alternatively working up a blur of notes on that Nord Electro, sometimes playing it with his knee, or swapping solos with the band’s other guitarist. All high-energy and huggely entertaining, it set things up nicely for the headliner.

Launching into the blues-rock boogie of album opener “Never Gonna Learn”, Rebecca Downes proved to be as dynamic a live performer as she is an excellent singer on record, and her tight band proved an superb foil, going from hard rock to soul to funk. The set included most but not quite all of the new album interspersed with highlights from her début, plus a cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart”. Everything from the new album came across powerfully live’ these were songs built to be performed on stage. “Night Train” was an early highlight, featuring some delightful Ray Manzerek style electric piano and an appropriately locomotive-like rhythm.

For much of the set the band played as a five piece with Steve Birkett handling all the guitar parts, but for the last couple of songs Rick Sandford joined them for a spectacular guitar-shredding “Sailing on a Pool of Tears” and the hard-rocking finale of the album’s title track. Unfortunately the strict curfew meant there was no time for an encore.

Rebecca Downes’s music exemplifies the old adage that your favourite genre didn’t just stop as soon as popular fashion moved on. She plays the blues in the style of the classic rock era of the sixties and seventies, and makes few concessions to contemporary musical fashion. But as this gig showed she’s very good at what she does. She will be on tour across much of Britain over the course of the year, playing a number of festivals including the Cambridge Rock Festival in August.

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Chantel McGregor, The 100 Club, London

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.

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