Blue as a word has a deep contradiction at its heart. As an adjective, it is the epitome of cool or a deep well of sorrow. As a colour, it contains a spectrum of shades which your average rock fan wears with patch-worthy denim pride. As a musical movement, it’s the gritty, soulful, tough contemplation of existence or a shining, slick and sophisticated sound of joy. One word, four letters and many possibilities as illustrated by uber blues commanders Supersonic Blues Machine tonight at Shepherds Bush Empire.

Beefed up with new British frontman, and supersonic solo artist in his own right, Kris Barras injected an energy and slick melodious guitar solos to add a touch of grit to the oyster in this stunning set of southern-tinged blues.

Barras took gigantic strides tonight filling in guitar/singer legend Lance Lopez shoes. Sans Stetson but sporting a mighty black wide-brimmed hat, Barras looked, played, sang and totally owned his part in this self-propelling machine band of the blues. Being his first show as frontman, both he and the band gelled demonstrating an acute understanding of their sum as much as their own individual parts.

Powered by the riotous rhythm machine of Kenny Aronoff and Fabrizio Grossi, their energetic set mostly featured songs from their Californisoul album, which included a stellar take on “I’m Done Missing You”. Barras’ slide playing slithered beautifully between Serge Simic’s classic Les Paul tones especially on “I Can’t Take It No More”.

USA resident Brit Davy Knowles joined the blues guitar throng to tear up a fabulous solo on SBM original “Let It Be”; proving himself a bona fire talent that we need to hear more from on these shores.

However, it was ZZ Top’s sharp dressed bluesman Billy Gibbons who brought a heft to the evening’s blues-in with a classy run of blues standards, including “Dust My Broom” and “Got My Mojo Working”. But it was a loose and groovy “Sharp Dressed Man” that rattled the rafters of this venerable venue.

Saving the best to the last, it was a magical symbiosis of Billy Gibbons, Kris Barras, Serge Simic, Davy Knowles and Bernie Marsden, with his ‘Beast’ in hand, all of who under Gibbons’ direction played supersonic solo’s on final song “Going Down”.

In closing, Gibbons wisely acknowledged the recent upsurge in the burgeoning British blues movement, led by a talented crop of male and female performers, in his quip “you British are bringing the blues back.”

Words: Paul Davies / Photos: Eric Duvet

Supersonic Blues Machine
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Event Date: 04-July-2018

About The Author

I began my career in journalism at the now defunct, pre-digital Smash Hits magazine, which was situated in London's Carnaby Street. After learning the ropes, I washed up at Vox Magazine, essentially the NME'S monthly magazine, as the Internet arrived into our lives. Thereon, I eventually graduated onto Q Magazine when people still treasured the magazine that they bought. My journalistic career since has been on newspapers at The Times, The Independent/i newspaper, Daily & Sunday Express and, ofcourse, National Rock Review.

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