It may say Laurence Jones on the ticket, but if you’ve seen Jones before you’ll know that this isn’t a one-man show. Young Laurence may get an infectious degree of pleasure from his work, but much of the vitality of his band’s performance comes from the interaction between Jones and his trusty bassman, Roger Inniss. Anyone remember Tom and Jerry? The Inniss/Jones relationship reminds me of protective bulldog Spike, beaming “Dat’s my boy” at the antics of his pup, Tike.
|Laurence Jones and Roger Inniss - "Dat's my boy!"|
Joking aside, Jones often capitalises on the funk that Inniss brings to the equation with his 6-string bass, for example on ‘What I Need’, which they bring down to a murmur before an explosive finale. A cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ is also a natural tour de funk, stylishly executed with Jones producing a great organ-like guitar sound through a Leslie pedal, while new kid on the drum kit Phil Wilson shows he can swing.
Wilson’s arrival is the main change since Jones toured last year, following the return of his predecessor Miri Miettinen to Finland. Miettinen’s are big shoes to fill, with his looseness and sense of space, but on this showing Wilson has slotted in well. He punctuates the brooding opener ‘Southern Breeze’ neatly, and contributes heavily to the twitching, shifting rhythms of new song ‘Take Me High’, a chunk of bump’n’grind with a hint of Johnny Winter’s ‘Rock’n’Roll Hootchie Koo’ about it. It’s an encouraging foretaste of Jones’ new album in the offing, produced by Mike Vernon.
Funk isn’t the only game in town though, as Jones lets loose plenty guitar fireworks with a howling solo on ‘Good Morning Blues’, and rolling guitar licks on ‘Thunder In The Sky’ as a prelude to a solo that veers towards epic proportions in the manner of a Michael Schenker wig-out. There’s more variety too with the bright, Celtic feel of ‘Set It Free’, while ‘Fall From The Sky’ features some interesting variations, and Jones also introduces us to his new baritone guitar.
‘The Price I Pay’ features a lively guitar/bass duel playing around with great riffs you have known and loved, before Inniss underlines his groovemeister credentials with a squelchy bass solo. They encore with a brisk ‘What’s It Gonna Be’, before vacating the stage to make way for some bleeding club night that’s taking over the venue for the latter part of the night. A compact set from Jones and his compadres, but still great value in the keeping music live stakes.
|The Black Circles - a Bratley with a Strat|
Mancunian supporting trio The Black Circles also provide their fair share of the entertainment. Guitarist Sam Bratley conjures up a full, colourful sound with ease, and on the slow blues ‘Bad Luck’ his voice hints at the late Jimmy Dewar’s soulfulness, while his extended solo stays interesting by dint of good dynamics, and great control, tone and variety. ‘Gypsy Girl’ is as Hendrixy a rave-up as it’s title might suggest, right down to Bratley’s wah-wah heavy solo, while ‘She’s Dynamite’ is an SRV-like blast of boogie.
Stevie Ray influences are also abroad on the closing slowie ‘Stop Acting This Way’. By the sound of it Bratley is well immersed in the works of Messrs Hendrix and Vaughan, but good on him and his bassist buddy Martin Saunders for translating their influences into something original, rather than just trotting out covers. It’s an impressive support set, and if they can inject more of their personalities into their performance, in the manner of the headliners, they could be an exciting proposition.