That mean looking dude on the cover shot of his latest album, Middle Of The Road? Live, Eric Gales is nothing like that. With his band knocking out a bass’n’drums intro, Gales makes his entrance, grinning from ear to ear, before strapping on his guitar and launching into a slab of stuttering funk on which the vocals are limited to occasional chants of “Whoa-oh!”
After a bit of banter with the audience in which he teasingly refers to playing his first ever British gig in “Eedinberg” – happily, the locals school him in the right pronunciation before long – he gets back in the groove with the beats-fuelled ‘Change In Me’, into the intro of which he
effortlessly slips a ZZ Top riff. But
that’s just the prelude to him uncorking a ripsnorting solo, which is an
indication of what’s to come.
|Eric Gales - a bit guitartastic|
There’s an appealingly humorous air of braggadocio about him as he laps up the audience reaction, like a wide receiver who’s just made a mind-boggling touchdown catch. But he also speaks openly about his past addictions, and being clean for over 10 months now. It makes him want to share with the audience all the passion he’s feeling, he says.
Those aren’t idle words either, as he belts into an effects heavy bash at ‘Boogie Man’, featuring a coda that’s ferociously wild in its intensity, followed by the aptly titled track ‘Freedom From My Demons’, from his 2006 album Crystal Vision. Starting off as a slow blues, it builds over a bass line that recalls ‘Dazed And Confused’ until Gales is letting fly with fret frying of wanton proportions, complemented by occasional twists into jazzy chords that add different colours. By the time he’s done, the guitar freaks in the audience are going nuts.
At which point Gales decides to take a break and leave the stage to bassist Cody Wright and drummer Nick Hayes to embark on a funk fusion showcase, an interlude I could frankly do without, no matter how impressive the musicianship. No matter, when Gales returns he goes into a digression in which he plays around to good effect with the riff from ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’, with a tone that demonstrates why he has a reputation for a Hendrix vibe.
Next stop is a workout around a powerful ‘Smokestack Lighting’ groove – but without the benefit of vocals. Which is a pity, because when he makes the effort Gales is an engaging singer. But then his show isn’t really about songs, per se. In jazz fashion, songs are really just frameworks for him to do his thang.
‘Swamp’, though, is an instrumental pure and well, sort of simple. A frenetic outing on which
|It all gets too much for Eric Gales|
‘Voodoo Chile’ gets dialled up as a pretext for some funky experimentation, before Gales slides into a passage of solo classical guitar which would surely have had Blackmore purring. A growling version of the riff from ‘Kashmir’ is incorporated, along the way to him putting the hammer down on ‘Back In Black’.
For an encore Wright fires up a blistering bass riff over which Gales goes bonkers, before they collectively funk it up – at lightning pace – until Gales ends up letting rip while sitting, then lying, on the floor.
Time flies while you’re having fun. Me, I might prefer more in the way of actual songs and changes in mood. But there’s no denying that Eric Gales puts on one hell of a show, one that some long standing fans had evidently waited a long time to see, and relished from start to finish. If the attack of a mad axeman is your thing, then Gales is absolutely the real deal.