Gig Review: Kris Barras Band / South of Salem / The Nocturnal Affair – Glasgow Garage (17th April 2024)

A few days after releasing their new album Halo Effect (review here), Kris Barras and his band are out on the road with a welcome stop off in Glasgow. The last time I saw them was three years ago, supporting Black Stone Cherry at the Barrowlands – my first post-lockdown gig. Tonight they headline a smaller venue, and bring two damn good bands with them as their own support.

I arrived about halfway through The Nocturnal Affair‘s set, which very quickly became apparent as my loss as the handful of songs I caught were really good. For those who remember them, their hard rock style with great solos reminded me of Jupiter Falls. The only non-UK band on the bill (they’re all the way from Las Vegas), it’s likely they were on the bill due to being labelmates with KBB on Earache Records. However they got their slot, it was worth it.

They filled the stage well, and lead singer Brendan Shane prowled around quite comfortably – and plays keyboards now an again. Plus, any opening band who can get half the (fairly large) crowd singing along with them is definitely doing something right. OK, so it was a cover, but people still won’t sing unless you put them in the mood. A rock-based rendition of Haddaway’s “What Is Love” certainly appealed to audience, partly I suspect most of them were in their teens and twenties when the original came out. I know I was!

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Main support is an in-house favourite and a band we’re hugely happy to see moving up in the world. Hard rock / horror punk outfit South of Salem are at the stage now that when they walk out they look like headliners. Each member comes out one by one to huge applause from an audience with more than a few fans already in it. And then they rock the place.

I mean no offence to The Nocturnal Affair, but the way that South of Salem used the stage really reflected a step up in presence. So often you see bands restricted because they’re the support and have the main band’s kit behind them. They’re shoved close to the audience with no real room to move. SoS had the same stage setup as TNA but they just looked… amazing. Their movement, engagement and little moments like the synchronised guitar swings (cheesy, but awesome) just screamed quality over the top of Joey’s vocals.

Five of the tracks were culled from recent release Death of the Party with the other three being older numbers. The balance in favour of new material certainly didn’t bother the audience who were very much up for it. Like The Nocturnal Affair, they had the crowd singing along by the end – very much warmed up for the headliner.

Every member up there was grinning, posing, and basically looking like this was the best show they’d ever played. Although if Denis Sheriff licks that guitar any more, he’s going to get a splinter in his tongue. Their enthusiasm rubbed off on the crowd and I’m sure that the many there who hadn’t seen the band before would definitely be looking to see them again. With forty minutes and eight songs, they certainly gave a hell of a show. The friend I was with has seen them many times before, and rated this as the strongest performance she’s seen from them. Trust me when I say that this is high praise.

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Headliner time, and dot on 9pm Kris Barras Band walk on stage. By 9:01 they had the place rocking with opener “Who Needs Enemies”. Despite the new album having only been out a few days, Barras and the boys didn’t hold back from showcasing it, starting with “Unbreakable” right after the show starter. Five songs of the thirteen track set were from Halo Effect and they blended well with the more established material. Hell, if there’s a sign that an album has been well received it’s that you can’t spot a new song based on the crowd reaction. “Savages”, later in the set, probably got the loudest response when it kicked in of any song of the night.

Kris is a born showman. Tall, rugged, annoyingly handsome and talented. His hoarse voice works well with the band’s musical style, even across their broad range of material. He’s backed by some great colleagues, with a shout out especially to the mad Frazer Kerslake on 6-string bass. I don’t think the guy stayed stationary for the entire gig right up till the end when he collapsed in front of the drums (manned by the talented Billy Hammett). He also knows how to get a crowd going with the usual sing-along sections, and takes the time to jump right into the middle of them not once but twice. A nice twist on the “side is the louder” trope is to be right in amongst them and have them sing one after the other, different lines. It comes across more as a team effort than a competition and I loved it.

As Kris himself said at one point in the show, the band have become a bit heavier as time has gone on. This doesn’t stop them from revisiting the older material. Just because it’s lighter, or blue-sier or whatever doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. As such we got a double whammy of “Wake Me When It’s Over” and “Watching Over Me”. The former gave guitarist / keyboardist Josiah J. Manning a chance to really show off with a brief keyboard solo towards the end. As if we weren’t already impressed with his skills on six strings. Mind you, Barras himself gives him a run for his money. I have no idea how how good he was at fighting, but I’m glad he didn’t bugger his hands up doing it because, bloody hell, can the man make a guitar wail.

The brief story about how he learned to play guitar and returned to music to honour his dad is truly heart-warming, and it’s nice to hear him talk to the audience. I’m sure his sales pitch for the album will help and who knows how high they’ll chart this weekend after peaking in at number four earlier in the week.

The end of the set was a mixture of encore, photo ops and solos with ever band member being given a deserved chance to shine. Barras’ name may be big on the posters but so is the word “Band”. The way they work and perform leaves the crowd feeling not just entertained but joyful, and a full ninety minute set is very much appreciated when “bigger” names seem to think that 60-70 minutes is enough. Not when it’s this good, it isn’t.

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