Ben Poole (2019) Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 20, 2019    
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Ben Poole - Old School House, Barnsley (UK) - 23 July 2019

Blues artist Ben Poole picked the hottest week of the year to play three dates in the UK to record his forthcoming live album, his first since 2014's 'Live At The Royal Albert Hall'. I picked the first of the three, at the Old School House in Barnsley, just twenty minutes up the road from my home. I think one of the main reasons Poole picked this venue was for the good acoustics, another being the fantastic crowd reaction he always receives in South Yorkshire. The approximate seventy-five in attendance, at times, sounded like three times that number; however, they were impeccably behaved during the quieter periods, and only once did Poole have to tell an over-enthusiastic female punter to be quiet. Those who have read my previous review of Poole at the same venue will be pleased to hear that "Uncle Knobhead" was nowhere to be seen or heard; obviously passed out in the midday sun earlier in the day!

Fortunately, the Barnsley air conditioning was in full effect; leaving the door open for an extra five seconds when someone popped out to the bathroom, or fanning oneself with a beer mat. I must admit, I cannot ever remember quite so many people going to the bar and coming back with pints of water.
This evening Poole was playing as a trio, ably supported by Steve Amadeo on bass and King King drummer Wayne Proctor. The thirteen-song set was primarily made up of tracks from Poole's last two studio albums, 2018's 'Anytime You Need Me' and 2016's 'Time Might Come'.

The set opened with 'Take It No More' and 'Win You Over' and there was no warming up needed as Poole and his two band mates were on fire from the get-go. His interaction with his audience is always amiable and symbiotic. He amusingly announced "It's a bit hot", which would make an apt album title, even if it was the understatement of the evening.

Poole put his inimitable Blues spin on 'Start The Car', the original being an Americana/ AOR song by Jude Cole. Technical issues with the microphone stand above Proctor's head (it appeared to have wilted in the heat) gave the band a well deserved breather, if only a few songs into the two hour set. A further cover followed by way of Freddie King's 'Have You Ever Love A Woman' which started with an infeasibly great solo and continued with more inconceivably excellent solos throughout, leading to a massive ovation at its climax. Fan favourite 'Question Why' was up next, and is always a welcome staple of a Poole set. Extended versions (as they all were this evening) of 'Further On Down The Line' and the beautiful ballad 'Don't Cry For Me' featured from his last studio opus, whilst 'Love You Too Much' was started again after a false start. I must admit not to noticing anyone messing up the beginning.

Poole's solos were, as always, beautifully executed throughout and rarely repeated, as demonstrated during 'Lying To Me', 'Found Out The Hard Way' and 'Stay At Mine'. The pace may vary, but what never changes is the pure sweat (literally this evening) and emotion he puts into every performance.
'Anytime You Need Me' featured a bass solo by Amadeo, who bares a passing resemblance to Van Halen's Michael Anthony, and who must have been the coolest person in the building, looking like he had not even broken sweat. Poole, on the other hand, looked like he had just stepped out the shower and was constantly towelling himself and his guitar down in between each song. The latter made his performance even more remarkable than normal.

The three musicians left the stage to a rapturous reception, to return a few minutes later for a one song encore, dedicated to the late, great Gary Moore. 'Time Might Never Come' is Poole's 'Free Bird' and criminally omitted from the last few tours. I would like to think that Ben reintroduced this song due to popular demand (I mentioned it on more than one occasion to him) It was a fitting way to bring an amazingly hot night to a tremendous conclusion. If the following two evenings produced half as good a performance, then we are in for a superb live album.

Review and photos by Mark Donnelly

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