Monday, October 31, 2016

Red Butler - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 28 October 2016

When I last saw Red Butler they were supporting Danny Bryant, and stepping up to headline status this time they don’t look out of place.  They may be young, but they’ve got more going for them than just youthful exuberance.
The energy is there though, as they kick off with the infectious boogie of ‘You Only Live Once’, sporting a riff that might have Rossi and Parfitt playing a bit of air guitar.  By the time they get to ‘Say Hello (To My Little Friend)’ it’s apparent that they’re a band that not only have bags of stage presence, they’re a well oiled machine, as main man Alex Butler and newly recruited rhythm guitarist Dan Spellman get wired into some vibrant twin guitar attack over the solid rhythm section of Mikey Topp on bass and Charlie Simpson on drums.
Alex Butler gets wired in
Vocalist Jane Chloe Pearce comes on a bit heavy with the rock chick persona to begin with, but she’s got a strong voice with a lot of control, and her performance gets better as she relaxes into it.  They close the first half of their set with ‘Old Love’, a daring choice given that the Clapton/Cray song has become a standout for King King in recent years, but they put their own edgy stamp on it by letting Pearce take the spotlight with an emotional vocal.
Other covers show off interesting aspects of their range.  They turn ‘Shakin’ All Over’ into a slow-ish bump’n’grind that’s convincing even if it’s still not up to The Pirates’ version.  Sandi Thom’s ‘Belly Of The Blues’ is evidently a song with a deal of meaning for them, and they do it justice with a brooding intro and a particularly affecting vocal from Pearce, its sensitivity increased by her diminishing reliance on the mic.  But ‘Hit The Road Jack’ is the prize selection, kicking off a party vibe, with a great, gruff vocal contribution from Spellman, and a call and response guitar and vocal routine between Butler and Pearce.
Their own material is a bit more mixed.  ‘Black Flies’ is a stab at a hard rock epic with quiet and loud passages that doesn’t entirely grab the ear, and the same is true of ‘Calm Before The Storm’. But the rocking title track from their new album ‘Nothing To Lose’ is more like it, with a good choppy riff, a quiet middle eight and some neat guitar harmonies, which pop up again in a Wishbone Ash-like style on the clap-along ‘Got To Make It’, with its heavy riff.  Alex Butler plays enjoyable lead guitar throughout too, with a distinctive tone, and without ever looking like he thinks it’s all about him.
They really hit their stride in the closing stretch though, with Mikey Topp donning a wolf
Georgia Gordon feels the vibe
mask for the irresistible, neck-snapping hook of ‘Big Bad Wolf’. Then they take Buddy Guy’s ‘Show Me The Money’ and turn it into a riot of audience engagement, firstly with Butler, Topp and Spellman laying hands on each other’s guitars, and then with Butler, Pearce and Spellman going walkabout in the audience.  Buddy would be appreciative of the showmanship, I reckon.
Red Butler are coming.  They’re not quite the fully-fledged article yet, but they’re getting there.  They’ll write better songs to replace some of the material in this set.  In the meantime though, they’re more than capable of stirring things up when they go for a good-time vibe.
Support act Georgia Gordon has something going too, though she and her band still have a long way to go.  Their set includes a couple of decent originals from their forthcoming EP, such as ‘Prettiest Criminal’ with its chunky riff, and ‘New York’s Army’ with its prickly rhythm.  Gordon needs to develop more of a range with her voice, but it does have an interesting drawling quality. Meanwhile their arrangements are pretty tight, well-anchored by the rhythm section.  And while a cover of the Black Keys’ ‘I Got Mine’ provides some welcome drive, they need to match it with much more stage presence.

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