The Great British Rock & Blues Festival 2023 review

Wanted to get to the Hot Shots blues jam but first it was time to go to centre stage to see the winners of the Introductory Stage for 2022, Brave Rival, who put on a wonderfully professional performance. Two lead female singers took turns in singing: Chloe Josephine (Birthday girl) and Lindsey Bonnick bringing soul, rock, and blues through opening number What’s Your Name Again to an adoring fan base. The set was peppered with guitar solos from Ed Clarke especially noted on Run & Hide. Rhythm section, Billy Dedman on bass looking ultra-cool and drummer Donna Peter were the glue in this rocky entertaining band, their stage image really was spectacular, and they finished with Heart attack which was classy. Definitely another band on the rise. Parts of this performance were recorded live apparently. Maybe another album in the pipeline.

It was back to Blues Matters stage for some interesting collaborations with the Blues Jam, introduced by John Angus. Some great musicians onstage here with a litany of blues classics played to an appreciative audience. Always a good afternoon, it gives other musicians a chance to shine.
Another dash and another band. This time back to Centre Stage to catch the talented Kyla Brox and her band also a very special guest star, her father Victor Brox who at the time was just starting to sing Another man done Gone acapella style. The vast audience was silenced in awe, his vocals filled the auditorium, sweet emotional tones, just amazing. He followed this with an acoustic version of Motherless Child, a real honour to hear him. Kyla sang with him and her band, it was her time to shine. She is just an amazing singer and bubbly personality abounds. In The Morning was fabulous and she got to play her flute. But it is her version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah that is always the highlight of any of her shows. She puts all her soul into this and with the band behind her they ramp this to a unique crescendo. Another outstanding performance.

Anticipation mounted before going to Blues matters stage again to see the North East England band Alex Fawcett Band. They comprise; Alex Fawcett on lead vocals and guitar, Ronnie Semple on harmonica, Jack Watson on keyboards, John Dawson on bass and Martin Bell on drums. Together they put on one of the best performances of the weekend high octane rhythm and blues as it should be but with their unique take. An original, Thrill Of The Chase set the tone for this pacy, full on no holds barred performance, great rhythm to this groove peppered with harmonica tones from the wonderful Ronnie Semple. Another highlight was Hangover Blues with a bass tone that shook the building, keyboards particularly goo here also. Vocals delivery also great, a solid performance. They slowed tempo with Eric Clapton’s Old Love and reinterpreted the classic Hoochie Coochie Man. They finished with an original, Devil On Your Back with a backbeat and infectious groove punctuated with guitar and harmonica tones just playing off each other, outstanding band.
John Angus Blues Band took to the Blues Matters stage now. Six-piece band played a wonderful set to an appreciative audience. They blended blues rock tunes with traditional blues classics. They are; John Angus on lead vocals and bass guitar, Bram Duckworth on lead guitar, Adam Hutchins on keyboards, Andy Hurley on drums, Tim Hopkins on bass and harmonica player, Stewart Speirs. These boys know how to work an audience and have fun, the connection is palpable throughout the set. They did their version of Hoochie Coochie Man with female vocalist from the Blues Jam session earlier. Torture My Soul was a particular favourite, great tune, peppered with harmonica tones and groove laden sound. Mama’s Blues was also exceptionally good, stomping slide notes. Great band, the real deal, mixing styles in a rocky groove.

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