Blues rock guitarist Chantel McGregor returns to Bristol to deliver another fantastic exhibition of her playing and songwriting. 

It’s almost a year to the day since Mcgregor’s last show in the area in what is becoming an almost annual visit. Tonight Chantel is joined by her new drummer Ollie Goss who is playing his first live show with the band alongside long-standing bass player Colin Sutton.

As there is no support, Chantel takes to the stage at 9pm. Standing alone, McGregor delivers a couple of acoustic numbers including a great cover of “All Along The Watchtower” which is followed by a beautiful rendition of “Anaesthetise”. Having recently confirmed a string of acoustic dates for 2017, this section of the show gives the audience an introduction to what they can expect next year – and on the strength of this performance, it is sure to be a great show.

Chantel later invites the rest of the band to the stage, with Sutton joking “hang on, give us five minutes”. With McGregor still grasping her trusty acoustic guitar, the band takes to the stage and proceed to give the Bristol crowd a mellow version of “Inconsolable” and as the song builds Chantel switches to her electric guitar. 

McGregor picks up the pace with “Freefalling”, during which Chantel delivers a superb solo. Colin Sutton also gets a chance to show some of his bass trickery during “Your Fever”, using the stage furniture to get some great reverb through his bass guitar. 

The band’s witty remarks keep the audience entertained. They discuss playing “Like No Other” before drummer Ollie Goss quips “Yeah, let’s do it – I listened to it in the van”. Sutton goes on to tell the audience that he wasn’t listening to it, as he was listening to Alice in Chains to which he remarks “They are great”. Chantel then asks “Who’s Alison?”, much to our amusement.

McGregor’s latest offering Lose Control saw her move towards a more rock orientated sound. Tonight she includes in the show a couple of numbers which certainly fit in that category with the steady rocking “Burn Your Anger” before breaking into the fantastic dirty, blues-rock of “Southern Belle”, which is a personal favourite tonight. “Lose Control” features some more great driving bass, with Ollie on drums now in full swing alongside.

Chantel’s usual improvised section is introduced as a song that sounds a bit different and has a different name at every gig. This is basically a great instrumental jam session, with each of the band getting a chance to show their skills in a song which traverses blues, rock and prog’. Chantel takes the opportunity to showcase a wide spectrum of what she is capable of, with some great guitar licks.

The biggest laugh of the night comes as Chantel starts to introduce the following song “The next song is…. Dad, have you got a hankie?” Not a previously unheard teaser of a track from the new album, but a genuine request as she is suffering from sweats as a result of the pain drugs she is taking to combat her heavily strapped knee. Luckily, we are told that a date for a hospital visit has been finally arranged, so here’s hoping McGregor will be back to full fitness soon. The next song actually is “Fabulous” – and that’s just how we could also sum up McGregor’s performance tonight.

The band close out their set with the superb “Walk on The Land”, after more band discussion as they decide what to play. These are nice things to see – a sign that the band gel and that their performances are not scripted, the band can change the set at any time.

As Chantel limps to the side of the stage, the crowd are left wanting more. The band returns for a duly deserved encore and “Take The Power” ensues, with one more chance for the whole band to shine. Sutton uses his amp to get some more reverb down the neck of his bass. Ollie is really at home now pounding on his drum kit. McGregor gives us one last screaming guitar solo before the song is over.

Overall tonight Chantel McGregor delivered a great set, featuring songs from both of her studio albums, and delivered some fantastic playing throughout. The acoustic songs are well received, as is Chantel’s new drummer. McGregor certainly deserves to be playing for much bigger audiences. We look forward to Chantel’s acoustic tour next year, which will hopefully include a return to Bristol.

Photos: Becky O’Grady

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