HRH Blues returns to South Yorkshire bringing with it in tow a veritable who’s who of the international blues world.

As they say, it all started with the blues. The roots of rock and roll originate from the early blues artists of the 1920s-40s and those pioneers paved the way by influencing and inspiring the musical greats we have come to know and love today. Blues music comes in many shapes and forms, and that diverse musical cross section is largely represented here at HRH Blues this weekend.

Over the course of its two-day residency at the O2 Academy Sheffield, in excess of twenty plus artists are featured on the bill, some of whom have traveled across the globe from as far afield as the US and South Africa to be here, as well as pretty much everywhere in between. It’s fair to say the anticipation for the event is high, with all tickets having sold out well in advance.

The Billy Walton Band light up the stage early on Saturday afternoon, proving to be one of the standout acts of the whole weekend. The band brings with them the infectious sound of the Jersey shore whilst conjuring up images of the likes of the E-Street Band and Southside Johnny, and having a lot of fun with it in the process. Walton and his six-piece band well and truly win over the room and are a talking point for the rest of the festival thereafter.

London-based duo The Graveltones are probably the heaviest outfit on the bill this weekend. Jimmy O’s fuzz-fueled guitar riffs are perfectly accompanied by the ferocious drum groove of Mikey Sorbello who quite literally beats his kit like it owes him money; you can actually see shards of his drumsticks breaking off as they come crashing down on his cymbals. Having tried to play HRH Blues previously, the band make their festival debut this year, electrifying the audience and are most certainly worth the wait.

Finnish guitarist Erja Lyytinen adds some glamor to the proceedings during a set which is largely centered around her new record Stolen Hearts, from which several numbers feature. This includes the title track itself which sparks off an impromptu singalong with the audience and the devastating “Rocking Chair”, which is one of the heaviest tracks Lyytinen has written to date and includes a prog-tastic instrumental breakdown featuring drummer Kai Jokiaho.

The ‘Queen of the Slide Guitar’ turns up the heat during her interpretation of Tina Turner’s “Steamy Windows”, leaving Sheffield feeling a bit hot under the collar.

Due to the withdrawal of King King from the bill as a result of Alan Nimmo’s unfortunate vocal troubles, both Irish guitar virtuoso Simon McBride and the legendary Ten Years After are given extended sets.

McBride’s blistering guitar riffs most certainly put the fast in Belfast. Channeling the likes of Rory Gallagher and Jimi Hendrix, McBride’s powerful blues trio perform a set which is a mix of both new and old material. The band has great stage chemistry and each gets their moment to shine.

Comprising of fifty percent of their original lineup including drummer Ric Lee and keyboard player Chick Churchill, Ten Years After close out the first day of the festival. The band is also celebrating their fiftieth anniversary this year.

Over the course of their marathon, career-spanning set Ten Years After pull out all of the stops, breaking into old hits like “Love Like A Man” and the Woodstock anthem “I’m Going Home”.

Marcus Bonfanti is the perfect frontman for this band, his musicianship, charisma, energy and enthusiasm prevails throughout. The band has rather aptly named him Bonafabulous and the audience here in Sheffield would largely agree with that sentiment.

Ten Years After pay tribute to their friend Chuck Berry with some good old fashioned rock and roll in the shape of “Roll Over Beethoven”, before Ric Lee takes a much-deserved drum solo during “The Hobbit”. The band’s legendary bass player Colin Hodgkinson also takes a solo spot during “San Francisco Bay Blues”. Ten Years after bring a fantastic first day to a close with “Choo Choo Mama”.

Sunday morning’s acoustic brunch provides a nice change of pace for the lucky invitees and HRH Royalty in attendance. Known more commonly for their scorching guitar licks, the multi-faceted Chantel McGregor and Dan Patlansky take the opportunity to showcase the versatility of their playing, each performing a few rather memorable stripped back numbers.

On the other hand, Big Boy Bloater charms the crowd with his witty banter during an acoustic set which pays homage to old school greats like Louis Jordan and John Lee Hooker. Bloater’s set is interspersed with his own solo material like “That Ain’t My Name” and “Shake That Thing”. When it comes to blues Big Boy Bloater is the real deal.

Jack J Hutchinson who is a late addition to the bill, leaves behind his band the Boom Boom Brotherhood to close out the proceedings on the acoustic stage with a slide-tastic, foot stomping solo performance which includes a trio of numbers centering around his new album Set Your Heart For The Sun.

Meanwhile, over on the main stage British guitarist Sean Webster, who now resides in the Netherlands, gives an impressive performance. Sean’s spellbinding rendition of the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind” is one of the highlights of the weekend, sparking rapturous applause from the festival faithful.

Chantel McGregor hailing from nearby Bradford brings a touch of Yorkshire to the proceedings making her second appearance of the day on the main stage. This time around Chantel has brought her fully electrified trio with her featuring bass player Colin Sutton and new drummer Ollie Goss.

McGregor gives a lively set packed full of hard rocking numbers like “Killing Time”, “Southern Belle” and “Your Fever”. During Chantel’s couple of improvised spots, she really raises the bar, putting herself out there in a league of her own. She affectionally names her first Blues composition “Avin A Giraffe” after the news this weekend that April the Giraffe had given birth to her calf.

Laurence Jones comes complete with a new four-piece band and wows the HRH Blues crowd. Recent additions to the lineup include keyboard player Bennett Holland and bass player Greg Smith who prove to be the perfect foil for Jones to play off. This is particularly evident during slow blues numbers like “Thunder In The Sky”, giving the track a sound which in places is almost reminiscent to Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You”.

Jones pays homage to Eric Clapton/Cream with an incredible cover of “Cocaine”, which is in turn segued with licks from “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Layla”. Laurence will also be taking to the road with LA based rock and soul troubadours Vintage Trouble next month.

South African-born guitar virtuoso Dan Patlansky delivers a set focussing on his latest offering Introvertigo with the likes of new single “Sonnova Faith”, “Heartbeat” and the incredibly funky “Stop The Messing” all featuring.

Patlansky also takes the opportunity to bring back Laurence Jones to the stage for a stunning rendition of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights Big City”, with the pair playing off each other throughout. However, it is Dan’s epic instrumental guitar masterpiece “My Chana” which leaves the audience shellshocked, it truly has to be seen to be believed.

Before even a single act has been announced for next year’s event (14th/15th April 2018) we are informed that over 80% of the ticket allocation has already been sold, which is a testament to just how good these events actually are. So what are you waiting for? Next April can’t come soon enough.

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Event Date: 15&16-APR-2017

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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