Opening for the growing crowd here at the O2 Ritz in Manchester tonight is Del Suelo (pseudonym of Erik Mehlsen), from Regina Saskatchewan. He takes to the stage solo with just his guitar, harmonica and a powerful voice that fills the venue, drawing more people from the bars to the stage.
Playing songs from his recent album The Musicians Compass: A 12 Step Programme, he explains how his good friends and former bands members The Good South invited him along for the tour. And I can see why with his soaring vocals, skilled guitar work and infectious style of classic rock. Interspersed with funny and candid observations on life he sets the crowd up for the next act perfectly.
Which is The Hooten Hallers from Missouri. This Trio provide a hard, dirty rhythm and blues that surprised me. With the explosive blend of John Randall’s lap steel/guitar, Andy Rehm’s stand up drumming and Kellie Everett’s baritone sax, they kick things up a notch and are now playing to an almost full room.
With John’s voice sounding like crushed glass, perfectly partnered with Andy’s falsetto and Kellie’s sax, the crowd obviously loved the very original sound flowing effortlessly from country ballad to raucous hard rock. With elements of punk/blues and country, they put on a great show and leave us all clamouring for more.
We don’t have to wait long, dressed in their distinctive white shirts, braces, black hats and jacket, The Dead South strode through fog to the cheers of the now almost capacity crowd at the O2 Ritz. The band started immediately with “The Recap”, a fast-paced blues song showing off some awesome banjo playing from Coltan Crawford and the gritty vocals of Nate Hilts.
Here on the UK/EU The Bastard Son Tour all the way from Regina Saskatchewan, The Dead South serve us up tracks off both albums through the night, the fans lapping up the fast blue-grass style. Standing in front of the huge vintage bulbs on stage with the smoke drifting through the lights, we feel like we’ve been taken back to some early 1900’s western outlaw bar, and there is plenty of whisky being downed at the bar as well as on the stage.
The boys command the stage with ease, laughing and smiling, looking like they are quite obviously enjoying themselves. The mix of cello, mandolin, banjo and guitar, backing the brilliant vocal mix of Nate’s baritone rasp and Scott Pringle’s vocals, has the crowd bouncing and singing along.
All night folks have been shouting for “That Bastard Son” and we are not disappointed when it arrives. Then one of my favourite songs, it all goes quiet and Danny Kenyon starts tapping out the familiar beat of “In Hell I’ll be in Good Company” on his cello, when he starts whistling the familiar intro so does most of the crowd. Nate, Scott and almost the entire dance floor then replicate the videos finger clicking and dance moves. Quite a sight I must say.
Ending with the epic “Deep When the River’s High” before treating us to the darkly humorous “Banjo Odyssey” and “Travelling Man” for an encore, The Dead South put on an epic show which had a very eclectic mix of fans dancing, foot tapping singing and whiskey swilling all night. Definitely a show to see should you get the chance, 100% pure rock, blues and blue-grass from start to finish.