In recent times Planet Rock has been at the forefront in promoting the best in new and emerging rock and blues artists in the UK.

The Roadstars Tour is Planet Rock’s latest venture and features a triple bill of up and coming talent in the shape of US blues trio Simo, Stockport lads Federal Charm and British guitar prodigy Aaron Keylock. Tonight the Roadstars tour is warmly welcomed by the Geordie blues rock fraternity at The Cluny in Newcastle.

Fresh off the back of tours with both Joanne Shaw Taylor and Wilko Johnson, Aaron Keylock kicks off the proceedings. At the age of 18, Keylock is the youngest artist on the bill although his playing proves he is much wiser beyond his age.

Aaron is getting ready to release his eagerly anticipated debut album Cut Against The Grain in January and throughout the course of his 45-minute set, he previews several tracks from the record, which has a southern rock tinge to it. Aaron exhibits some phenomenal slide guitar playing particularly during the likes of “Down”, new single “Against The Grain” and “Spin The Bottle”. Tonight Keylock demonstrates just exactly why Total Guitar recently nominated him as one of their guitarists of 2016.

Federal Charm are no strangers to the North East of England. The band are becoming regular visitors here having performed in the area recently with everyone from Ian Hunter, Rich Robinson through to Joanne Shaw Taylor, as well as several headline shows. It seems like a lot of the band’s fans are present here tonight, as well as a few new faces or “new bait” as frontman Nick Bowden puts it, and the band look humbled by the response.

Federal Charm released their sophomore album Across The Divide last year and have recently followed this up with Crossed Wires, which is an acoustic reimagining of some of the numbers from their first two albums. The band’s set spans both of their full studio releases with the most emphasis on the latter.

The band takes us through the likes of the hard rocking “Hercules”, the incredibly infectious “Guess What”, which has an almost Led Zeppelin undertone to it and the anthemic war poem / new single “Silhouette”, which almost feels like it’s their battle cry. There is also room for a foot stomping rendition of Tom Petty’s “I Should Have Known It”, which the band makes their own. Federal Charm keeps pushing forward, the band are going from strength to strength with each and every tour and release.

Hailing all the way from Nashville, Tennessee – Simo makes their first appearance in the North East of England. Simo’s blend of psychedelic blues rock has the audience at The Cluny transfixed. The band released their sophomore album Let Love Show The Way earlier this year, but we are told this already feels quite old for them, with writing currently underway for a future release. As a result, only one track from the album is included in the set, but that track “Long May You Sail” lasts in excess of 10 mins of their roughly 45-minute set, and rightly so, the live version of this number is mindblowing. It also features an incredible mid-song drum solo from Adam Abrashoff.

Simo’s set tonight largely portrays their new material with the likes of the epic wah-infused “Return”, and slower soulful blues number “Be With You” both included in the show. JD Simo has a phenomenal appreciation of space, great tone, and exhibits a display of guitar mastery throughout the course of the set. In places, the band has a vibe which is reminiscent of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. 

The U.S. based trio is truly a spectacle to behold, and they have to be seen to be believed. There are no gimmicks, no fancy stage sets or light shows, no setlists, it’s all about the music. The band are so tight, they read each other and play off each other which often results in extended improvised jams, which they make look so effortless. We are told by the band’s frontman and lead guitarist JD Simo that the show is different each night. These are artists of the highest calibre. Even after the band push beyond the venue’s 11pm curfew, they still leave the audience wanting more.

The inaugural Roadstars tour proved to be a huge success in Newcastle tonight, and it will inevitably act as a springboard for those involved. We look forward to more of what is to come from these bright hopes of the blues rock scene.

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Federal Charm
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Aaron Keylock
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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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