Concert Reviews

Eric Gales / Richard Cox Smith Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 24, 2017    
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Eric Gales / Richard Cox Smith - Arlington Arts Centre, Newbury (UK) - 26 May 2017

Richard Cox-Smith wanders onto stage without fanfare and plonks himself onto a chair. That's where he'll stay for his set coaxing lovely old-school Blues out of his acoustic guitar and an eighty-five year-old tin guitar. The self-effacing, humorous Cox-Smith wins the approval of the crowd with his pre-war Blues where you can hear the Country and the Delta evoked by his dextrous fingers. He plays a couple of old Doc Watson tunes, a traditional song made popular by Blind William McTell and then brings it up to date (well post-war at any rate) with a couple of Michael Chapman tracks and, because it's the day after Bob Dylan's birthday, a little Dylan too. His voice is okay although a touch mannered and not as fluid as his guitar playing. He goes down well with the crowd thus making a few new friends along the way. He gets a deserved round of applause from the crowd for his performance which he takes with the witty "Thank you, you have excellent taste". Indeed, we do.

Eric Gales is the full package, on tour in the UK for the first time. He's got the guitar skills, a prime soulful voice and bags of red, white and blue American charisma that's powerful enough to get a polite (well most of them) crowd off their bums. You can tell initially he's not sure what to make of being in the Home Counties but soon warms to the place and the crowd. He pronounces Newbury with the stress on the second syllable which makes the place sound more exotic like a blood relation of Chuck Berry.

Eric Gales Live 2

In the same week as the Manchester atrocity and with feelings still raw, Gale starts his set, not with a wailing guitar, but a heartfelt spoken piece about his reaction to the events and offering his prayers for the families and friends of the victims with him stating, "All I want to do is take my music which is all about love and peace from city to city, state to state". With those words, he wins over the crowd before he's even hit a chord. When he does plug in he produces a rainbow of Bluesy riffs, Funkadelic grooves and Jimi Hendrix bravado. Gales stalks the stage. The funky numbers are good but it's when he digs deeper that his music really catches fire. His take on Buddy Guy's 'Baby Please Don't Leave Me' pleads insistently and gets a great reaction from the crowd – a shoe-in for his next album.

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Backed ably by his rhythm section of Cody Wright and Nick Hayes, it's his percussionist and wife La Donna who stands out. She's plays a variety of percussive instruments, knocking the bejesus out of each one. This adds colour to the band's sound and the chemistry between Gales and her is palpable. He says, after his wife is heckled, that he's on stage giving all his "heart and soul" and you believe it.

Gales tells a good story, like how he met his wife when she was at a gig and that they chatted on Skype when he was touring with Lauren Hill. He proposed within a month and was married soon after. He plays 'Change In Me' referencing his battle with addiction and how he's been clean for ten and a half months which gets the normally demure British audience giving an Oprah style whoop.

Eric Gales Live 1

The mash up at the end includes Blue Oyster Cult's 'Don't Fear The Reaper', AC/DC's 'Back In Black', Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' and Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile', which Gales puts his own stamp on. This finale has him lying, writhing on the floor with his guitar and it gets the whole theatre crowd on their feet.

In true Blues tradition, his life has had its fair share of ups and downs but Gales today is riding high, on the up; a fabulous musician and a larger than life showman. Great at self-promotion during his set, he seemed to have most of the crowd queuing at the end of the gig to buy his latest album 'Middle Of The Road' and get it signed. Don't miss the chance to see him if he comes this way again. Let's hope it won't be another twenty years.

Duncan Jamieson (photos by Sandra Ford)

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