12th April 2015
Review and photography by Ritchie Birnie
It seems as if Glasgow has been the centre of the Blues world recently. In the last Month we have had King,King, Laurence Jones, Robin Trower, Joanne Shaw Taylor and tonight gracing the boards of The Glasgow O2, ABC we have Ben Poole and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. It may be Blues but I have seen a lot of happy, smiling people recently.
Ben Poole (3.5/5) has done an incredible job tonight. From the initial reaction of the crowd you could tell not many people knew of his work. That has definitely been changed and he now has a lot more fans in Glasgow and anyone who does know his work does not need to be told the worth of this young guitarist.
His peers have heaped massive amounts of praise and it is well founded. He strolls across the stage, plugs in his Strat and just goes for it. Tonight also sees him with sleeves, hiding his outstanding tattoo as hee settles the crowd down and gets them all onside very early. This is helped as he introduces “Time Will Never Come” as a dedication to the amazing Gary Moore who he was very proud to have gotten the chance to work with.
I am glad to say I was here to see this man play tonight as he is most definitely a rising star and one to watch in the future. As well as working hard onstage he is also to be found at the merch stall each night, happy to sign CDs and have his photo taken. I got a chance to say hello and take a photo for him as his friend couldn’t get himself in the selfie.
Now to the headliner; Kenny Wayne Shepherd( 4.5/5) will be a name known to a lot of people out there. I had to double check and yes, he is only 37 years old. How can that be I hear you say, he has been about forever?! The young man with the very old soul has had a guitar in his hands since he was three and it shows. As always the man and the band were on fire tonight and it was a blues master class from the first song till that last strum of the guitar.
I cannot convey the amount of talent this man has, his peers have done that already and the extent of adulation from them and the fact that they are all willing to work with him says it all. He kicks off with “Never Lookin Back” which must be how he feels after all he has achieved in his short life. As the set moves on you get mesmerised by his guitar playing and it takes on a life of it’s own. It hypnotises and seduces you, draws you in, kicks you out and softens you from the heart outwards.
On “Talk To Me Baby” we see Kenny take on the singing duties admirably. From here we go to “De javu” from the first album from way back in 1995. It holds up well and for a song 20 years old he knows it inside out. Next we go into a three song medley from his time travelling around jamming with the greatest Blues names out there. As we get lost in these classics I take in the amazing job Noah Hunt does. The man was born to be onstage and he looks the part and what a voice he has to, it was spot on with not a single quiver or flat note all evening. I don’tt think there is any song he could not pull off.
After the medley, we get treated to an outstanding keyboard solo that proves that Blues is about age. The older it gets, the better it sounds and as Kenny returns to the stage he has the go faster stripe strat and takes us on a long, majestic guitar journey that leaves the crowd in awe.
That brings us to the Encore which has to be the most fantastic thing I have seen to end a gig this year. “Blue On Black” is my personal favourite KWS track, so to see and hear it live is always a delight, even more so after hearing Shinedown’s Smith and Myers covering it last year. This was the moment when I fell in love with the song all over again and I could not stop playing both versions.
Is this not just the best song to finish on? ” Voodoo Chile” is not a song everyone can pull off. Lets face it, the list of people who have covered this song is long and varied but I can assure you you will never see a performance live like this one. Once again the audience goes into a trance. There is no genre like blues to completely shut an audience up, to hear nothing but a guitar with no distractions. Complete adoration as a master shows off his skills, as he emulates his hero even to the point of playing the guitar behind his head.
Tonight I witnessed an absolute genius at work! Catch him on this short tour if you can, if not, keep your eyes open for his next visit to these shores as this should be on everyone’s bucket list. A star was born back in 1977 and it burns very, very bright.