Friday, June 12, 2015

Hamilton Loomis - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 11 June 2015

The House of Blues has many rooms, and Hamilton Loomis mostly inhabits the soul/funk apartments, with a sound that suggests Stevie Wonder suddenly taking a liking to some Led Zeppelin riffs.  His disposition on stage is sunny, generally reflecting songs with strong melodies and simple, straightforward lyrics, delivered with impeccable musicianship by him and his band.  He’s also a bit of a showman, given to sharing in some goofily choreographed moves with his compadres.
Has anyone seen that confounded stage?
These elements are in evidence early on ‘She’s Had Enough’, a typically soulful affair wedded to a great, rocking guitar riff and embroidered with harp from Loomis, while drummer Armando Aussenac weaves in some neat cross-patterns.  The following ‘Everything I Had’ is similarly emblematic of his style, a smooth song punctuated by a couple of bursts of funky staccato – Loomis has a particular fondness for funky staccato.  His perfectly pitched vocals are similarly smooth, and if there’s a sense that the overall effect lacks a bit of heft, as on the rather unremarkable new song ‘Let Your Feelings Show’, then the counterpoint is that it’s always pleasingly nimble.
Loomis and co have plenty tricks up their sleeve to ratchet up the performance levels though, starting with Fabien Hernandez’ eye-popping tenor sax solo on ‘Give It Back’.  And they close the first half of their set with ‘Bow Wow’, which incorporates the trademark Loomis walkabout in the audience for some extended guitar soloing around a medley of classic rock riffs such as ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘American Woman’.
That turns up the temperature for the second half, in which a succession of strong songs lend feature spots to his band members, starting with another wailing sax solo from Hernandez on ‘Get My Blues On’.  Dante Ware delivers a squelchy turn on 6 string bass during ‘Stuck In A Rut’, adding in a slice of ‘Crosstown Traffic’ for good measure. Meanwhile Aussenac gives his hired drum kit such a going over on ‘Partner In Crime’ that running repairs are necessary by the time he’s done.
The good time ‘Workin’ Real Hard’ keeps the mood going, before they pull out another party piece during the hot funk of ‘Take A Number (Stand In Line)’, as they all rotate their instruments and belt out a succession of solos that bring the house down – especially the synth spot from Aussenac and a blistering guitar workout from Hernandez.  Like I said – showmanship!

On a glorious June evening the Voodoo Rooms may not have needed warming up, but support band The Blueswater do a good job of it anyway, with a driving set of Chicago R&B.  With the ever impressive Jed Potts on guitar, when they cut loose it’s the real deal, even if Gordon Jones’ harp could have been higher in the mix.  ‘Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)’ seems a bit under-powered, and I could do without front man Felipe Schrieberg channelling Screaming Jay Hawkins quite so literally on ‘I Put A Spell On You’.  But ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, and their all action version of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’, with Charlie Wild joining in with Potts on a guitar wig-out, really do cut the mustard.

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