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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 d├ębut “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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