I’m just getting myself a beer in the bar when Rob Tognoni comes onstage, but still manage to latch onto his modus operandi pretty damn quickly, as he and his trio crash into a spiky riff, soon accompanied by a catalogue of sparky guitar licks, leading up to a high-powered wah wah solo. Oh yeah, there are some vocals in there too, delivered in a kinda tuneful, enthusiastic bark, and the overall package is enough to get the crowd on side from the git go.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know Rob Tognoni’s canon backwards. The Australian has been on the go for a long time, and has a catalogue of albums stretching back to the mid-90s, but I only came across him for the first time last year. So I vaguely recognise ‘Birra For Lira’, the title track from his 2015 album, which features another squawking solo, but for much of the set all bets are off.
|Rob Tognoni and Gaz Rackham - lean on me|
Never mind, by the time he gets stuck into another stomper from his 1995 album Headstrong, it’s clear that with his impish grin that this is a guy who enjoys his work. Given his Australian provenance it’s easy to say that there’s an air of old-fashioned hard rock a la AC/DC to his sound, but ‘Bad Girl’ does fit that bill, with its sledgehammer riff and drummer Mike Hellier doing his best impression of Phil Rudd on-the-money timekeeping. And while Tognoni – aka the Tasmanian Devil – doesn’t don fancy dress, he’s still a showman, of the arm-flourishing, lip-pursing, hip-wiggling (yes, hip-wiggling), machine gun soloing variety.
Bassist Gaz Rackham – who could be cast as the cousin of Eric Stoltz in Pulp Fiction – seems permanently amused by his gaffer’s antics, whether of the shape-throwing or the plank-spanking variety. But with his 5 string bass he and Hellier make up a rock solid but supple boiler room on the likes of ‘Drink Jack Boogie’, a Johnny Winter-ish affair that’s one of the highlights of the night, with a decidedly bluesy intro from Tognoni, and the more subtle title track from his Tognoni’s latest album Brave, with its offbeat rhythm.
They close the first of two sets with a jam on ‘Dark Angel’, building from a slow bass’n’drums intro to feature crunching riffs and fluid licks, and some impressive pickless soloing from the Tog, even if his nod to ‘Toccata and Fugue’ is a bit naff.
The second half kicks in interesting fashion, as some slow funky blues develops into something that may or may not be called ‘One More Hit’, and which feels like the Stones taking a walk on the wild side with Lou Reed, semi-spoken vocal and all, but with Tognoni then getting excited enough to be play with his teeth, get down on his knees, and embark on some windmill armed, toreador-like guitar heroism.
It’s all a bit endearingly daft, but he does demonstrating good taste by then covering Rory Gallagher’s ‘Shadow Play’. It’s a great tune of course, and though RT isn’t Rory he doesn’t let the side down. In fact by now I’m forcibly reminded of Larry Miller, another meat-and-potatoes hard blues-rockin’ geezer and Rory fan who is great fun.
The R’n’B groove of ‘Mr John Lee’ (as in Hooker), is swingingly good to the point that plenty of asses are being shook in the audience, and a reading of ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ is like a Tour de France descent in top gear, with suitably brisk drum and bass solos and ‘Let There Be Rock’ style dynamics.
|Andrew Robert Eustace - rollin' down down the Delta|
They close with ‘Hey Joe’, which features some unsatisfyingly noodling guitar to these ears, though the Togster does conjure up some decent low volume weeping guitar effects, followed by more energetic guitar wrangling, and a sturdy rocker of an encore sends the crowd away happy.
In the support slot Glasgow’s Andrew Robert Eustace and his band deliver an entertaining set of Delta orientated electric blues. Eustace is a tall and genial sorta guy, effectively gruff line on the vocal front and satisfyingly useful in the guitar department. ‘Can’t Wait To See That’ is a decent Mississippi stomp, with two guitars rollin’ an’ tumblin’ around the riff and a scrabbling solo. But the following ‘Broke Down And Beat’ is a highlight, a chunky shuffle with an appealing groove topped off with a good hook in the chorus. ‘Bad Weather Blues’ is a strutting, upbeat 12 bar, with a fiery solo from Eustace as the band stoke the engines for a crescendo that should really develop into something bigger.
Things get a bit samey as the set progresses, even though they relax a bit as the songs go by, and the lyrics of ‘Running Man’, confessing to killing a man, feel a bit inauthentic. ‘Crooked Old Dog’ rattles along nicely though, with its semi-Celtic guitar riff and a hint of stop-time rhythm, and ‘Had Enough’ slithers down the Delta nicely on a jittery riff. They could do with developing a bit more rhythmic variety – a Bo Diddley beat might be a useful avenue to explore – but Eustace and chums seem to have a clear sense of the sound they’re after, and the man himself injects some personality both vocally and on guitar.