04 November 2017

Gig Review: Eric Gales @ The Robin 2 – 2nd November 2017

After just a few months of playing at The Robin 2 and leaving everyone breathless and wanting more he has returned and is intent on picking up where he left off! Eric is back and he means business. Even the stage furniture seemed tense as it awaited the man himself to prowl around it.

Supporting Eric this evening, and slightly earlier than billed (much to the delight of the appreciative crowd) was the enchanting Elles Bailey. Elles’s trademark husky, lived-in voice may sound like this young songstress keeps up a 60-a-day habit, but was actually caused by a serious childhood illness. At the tender age of three, Elles contracted both viral and bacterial pneumonia. Ever-resilient, Elles recovered,but her voice had changed completely.  An ENT visit revealed no permanent damage, but as the specialist prophetically observed, “If she ever wants to sing, she’ll be a natural blues vocalist!” And what a blues vocalist. Tonight she appeared as a very much acoustic act ably supported by Joe Wilkins on acoustic guitar and Zak Ranyard on bass.

Considering the pressure and responsibility of opening for an artist like Eric Gales, Elles looked comfortable from the start. Her gorgeous, sumptuous bluesy vocals drew you in completely and although I had never encountered her music before could not wait for what might happen next. Underpinned by some excellent slide guitar work from Joe and steadfast bass lines from Zak, Elles danced gently from song to song as if she wanted to make everyone present feel better. Even a broken guitar string could not get in her way as she floated on a dreamy blues cloud delivering grown up lyrics with passion and intent.

I will be keeping my eyes open for when she plays with a full band and will tell you all about it. Elles sang a number of songs from her debut album  ‘WILDFIRE’ which gave us a brief glimpse of what she might be capable of but certainly left me wanting more. I was particularly moved (yes I am sensitive) by the beautiful ‘Time’s A Healer’. If you like that kind of smoky jazz club vibe then do yourself a favour and have a listen to the album or get out and see her live, you will not be disappointed.

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Eric Gales at The Robin 2 – Thursday 2nd November 2017

At approximately 9.15pm Eric’s band took to the stage. His astonishing backline of Nick Hayes on Drums, the ridiculously talented Cody Wright on bass and his wife and manager (aren’t they all?) LaDonna started to belt out an intro until LaDonna announced ‘Are y’all ready for Eric Gales?’. To be honest, having experienced Eric just a few months before I hoped I was because I was still trying to make sense of what happened that night when he displayed guitar-playing, the like of which I had rarely seen.

Eric eventually took to the stage. He then stopped proceedings to bemoan the fact that he was displaying more excitement than anyone in the crowd. He was right but I suspect that other people, like me, were buckling ourselves in for what was bound to be a blistering guitar solo laden performance par excellence and none of us wanted to miss a note (I swear that some people were wearing incontinence pants to make sure of that).

The next 2 and a quarter hours were a masterclass in so many things. His playing is just second to none. His showmanship is engaging, enchanting and very honest. At one point Eric shared that tonight’s gig was in tribute to a very close friend that they had lost tragically the day before. His show of emotion was just as real as the passion in his playing and there was a real sense that Eric really meant every note that he shared with us through the whole evening. Eric stomps and prowls around the stage as if he was awaiting the second coming. The rest of the band have their gaze fixed on him just in case he is ‘called up’ at any moment. In truth, they are all such accomplished musicians that they are waiting for whichever direction Eric is going to go in. Those of us in the audience were just passengers wholly grateful for being taken on the ride.

And taken for a ride we were (in a good way). Eric, wilfully supported by his band, never took his foot off the accelerator. Teasing us with tasters of past favourites such as Blocked Out The Sun and then launching into mesmerizing guitar solos and treating us with crowd pleasing treats such as Don’t Fear The Reaper, Voodoo Chile, Back in Black and so on. Eric stood tall on the stage like a victorious gladiator awaiting his next opponent. No-one I fear was ready to take him on as he was in full throttle and, to quote Louis Walsh, completely owning the stage.

Eric Gales is a tour-de-force that any air guitar playing afficianado ought to know about. We could talk about his unusual style – he plays a right handed-guitar upside down even though he is not left-handed – but that would be totally missing the point about what Eric Gales is all about.

What is he all about? . . . well in my humble opinion (and it is just that) Eric is blessed with an ability to play the most amazing guitar riffs and licks and yet be as surprised as the rest of us as to how they happened. He surfs his way through his music and gets as mush pleasure out of the sounds he makes as his very blessed observers, supporters and fans. I have only seen him play twice but I am hooked already. I struggle to understand how more people are not aware of him. How he is not as much of a household name as Clapton or Satriani or even Heinz. To talk about him in technical terms ie why the unusual playing style, what gear does he use etc is missing the point and wasting time. Music is to be listened to and experienced and Eric Gales knows that and wants the rest of us to know that too.

If you are a fan of the guitar and it’s greatest exponents then etch this man’s name on your memory and take every opportunity to lose yourself in his genius. Several days later I still have a smile on my face thanks to an amazing performance. Roll on his next tour . . .

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