It’s been almost twelve months since Ryan McGarvey played his largest UK headline show at the Sage Gateshead, and tonight he is back for round two.

An eager crowd of blues rock fans fill the venue to witness his return. Some lineup changes since Ryan’s last visit sees legendary bass player Carmine Rojas (Joe Bonamassa, David Bowie, Rod Stewart) and drummer Christopher Antoine Hill round off the power trio.

Shropshire boys The Rainbreakers make the journey up to the North East of England to open the show. Tonight also happens to be lead vocalist Ben Edward’s birthday. The band played in Newcastle with Corky Laing last year around the time of the release of their debut EP, Blood Not Brass (Amazon).

The Rainbreakers kick off the proceedings with the up-tempo, funky lead track of their EP “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On”. They launch into “Blood Not Brass”, which is a superb, contemporary blues number with undertones of Gary Clark Jr and Lenny Kravitz. It’s refreshing to hear an artist in the British blues scene trying to do something a little different. The band close out their set with their take on Gary Clark Jr’s “When My Train Pulls In”.

With only a short five-song set, it’s fair to say the band left their mark on Geordie crowd, as cheers reverberate around the room long after the band left the stage. A bright future beckons for The Rainbreakers; they are a band to watch for in the future for sure.

Grasping his Gibson Firebird, Ryan McGarvey takes to the stage and launches straight into the hard rocking “Blues Knocking At My Door”. McGarvey lets loose during the funky, wah-infused “Wish I was Your Man”. With the addition of Carmine Rojas to the lineup, these songs seem to have a new lease of life. His prominent pounding bass line features heavily throughout the course of the evening, and the pair play off each other all night long.

McGarvey gives the audience a rare treat by performing the slow blues number, “Blue Eyed Angel”, from his debut album, Forward In Reverse (Amazon). He demonstrates passionate playing, exquisite control, and appreciation of space, which is one of the many standout songs in the set.

Mid-set largely revolves around Ryan’s latest offering, The Road Chosen (Amazon), with the groove-heavy numbers like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Memphis”, the first single taken from the album, sitting side-by-side with slower, heartfelt love songs like “My Heart To You”.

If one song is a testament to McGarvey’s guitar playing, it is “Mystic Dream”, which you can only describe as a tour de force of guitar playing skill, flare, and stamina which lasted almost 15 minutes, closing the main set. The show wraps with Ryan’s superb take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic”.

Ryan McGarvey seems to get better with every performance and tonight is no exception to that rule.

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Ryan McGarvey
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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.