Ever since Blues Pills opened for Rival Sons in December, leaving me covered in goosebumps and dumbstruck, I’ve been patiently waiting for this one. And despite the hotbox the Cathouse transforms into along with its sub-par acoustics, I enjoy it as a venue so I knew it was going to be a good night.
With two support acts, it was set to be a great night. Grabbing a brilliant spot as The Pearl Harts began proceedings, they received a generous response. Is it just me that’s getting sick of two pieces? I think I’m going to be more surprised if I see an unknown opening band not have only two members. Lead singer and guitarist Kirsty with a voice as throaty and vicious as Lzzy Hale at her best and drummer Sara robotically hammering RavenEye’s drumkit, they whittled through their set of blues-steeped hard rock. My friend told me afterwards they played three or four songs but they could have played ten songs and I wouldn’t have known where one finished and the next started, everything sounded so similar.
By the time RavenEye took to the stage after a bumpy changeover, the Cathouse was almost full to capacity. Ever since I heard RavenEye’s EP, I was looking forward to this gig even more. Blending the grit of Soundgarden with the bluesy side of Mayfield Four, it was a break-neck performance of hard rock. Oli Brown’s voice snarled and boomed for the entirety of the set, a grin set on his face for the duration and giving many guitarists a run for their money. Aaron Spiers’ bass lines thundered along, coupled with the drums of Kev Hickman, locking in to create a formidable rhythm section for the band.
It was hard to decide where to look for any length of time; such is the quality of each individual. But together, they’re something special and once this tour is finished, they’re set to open for the mighty Slash. They treated us to all five songs from their EP plus a handful of other tracks which were just as brilliant. By the end of their set; they left the stage to rapturous applause, impressing many who had never heard their material.
A Frenchman, a Swede and a Spaniard take their places on stage, two of them slipping on their guitar and bass whilst the other sits at his drumkit. Without delay, another Swede appears with a massive grin on her face and bellows “Hello!” to their captive audience. Rolling straight into “High Class Woman” with its mighty bass line, Elin Larsson leads Blues Pills through one of their punchiest blues-soaked songs before shifting effortlessly into “Ain’t No Change”.
With only one album to their name, much of the material is drawn from that and a cover of “Elements and Things” by Tony Joe White. Without breaking a sweat, guitarist Dorian Sorriaux proves why he’s one of the finest guitarists out there today; his blues licks hitting the mark and sending chills down your spine.
Sorriaux doesn’t jump around the stage to entertain, only shifting his weight between his feet, letting the music do the talking. And it’s a testament to the quality of the band’s material that there’s no wish for a second guitarist to assist him. Equally, bass player Zack Anderson stands stock-still; plucking his bass to provide meaty grooves and locks in tightly with André Kvarnström on drums to create rhythms you can’t help but nod along with. Much like RavenEye before them, it’s hard to settle your eye on any one person for a length of time.
However, it’s Larsson’s vocals which elicit the biggest cheers of the night, her friendly face betrayed by the raw, visceral attack she makes with songs like “Devil Man” and “Time is Now”. She drops a gear for songs like “No Hope Left for Me” and “Black Smoke”, focusing on a more tender approach. Her voice is rich, soulful and powerful in equal measure as she contorts herself across the stage, much of the time with a colourful tambourine in hand. Bursting with energy, she contrasts with the rest of the band, including Kvarnström.
From the outset, I knew this was going to be a good night with two fantastic bands, both of whom are only destined for bigger venues. And with Blues Pills recently confirmed for Download, I don’t have to wait too long to see them once more.