A recently-developed and not-so-secret pleasure of mine is that of blues music, in all its glorious manifestations. From the dirge-like wailing that the 50s brought, through to the thoroughly upbeat 60s, and the rock-infused vibes of the 70s, there is much ground to be covered, and so I for one am welcoming the blues revival at the moment.
At the forefront of this are Swedish rock-n’-rollers Graveyard, who have seen fit to embark on a blast through the UK in support of their latest opus Lights Out. Accompanying them are Spiders, a recently-formed female-fronted blues/hard rock outfit and, for this gig, local stoner metal band Baron Greenback, who were decidedly heavier than the subsequent acts. All in all, The Fleece in Bristol had a fairly compact package together, and that was reflected in the variety of T-shirts on display: Electric Wizard, Budgie and Testament are a few that come to memory. In any case, on with the show.
First up, Baron Greenbackshook the stage with an instrumental intro which segued neatly into the first lengthy number. The band played tightly and were full of riffs, displaying a jam band ethic channelling Electric Wizard and Sleep. Tempo shifts were abound, from a crawling slow to a frantic climax, and many in between. Vocalist Max Ward was clad in a Rage Against The Machine T-shirt, which made sense when Mike Waring started doing Morello-style guitar manipulation. The bass, provided by Chris “Rooster” Rouse faded in and out of audibility, but sounded great during Waring’s impressive solos. The drums from Andy Kelley were on-point and tight rhythmically, although did not branch out noticeably beyond the required patterns. Ward’s vocals consisted of a hoarse baritone, which made understanding the words somewhat challenging amidst the thundering music. While markedly better in the flesh than in the live videos available, and appropriate to the music, they were not exactly stellar. Singing aside, Baron Greenback put on an enjoyable performance worthy of Dangermouse’s arch-nemesis, after whom they are named.
Next to warm our ears were Spiders, supporting the freshly-released Flash Point. They hit the stage with flair in their blues-revival style, 60s-inspired according to my blues-expert girlfriend. Ann-Sofie, clad in clothing worthy of said decade, sported a powerful pair of lungs reminiscent of a rockin’ version of Blondie (“Weekeend Nights“). The guitar, provided by John, had plenty of licks to spare, some passed to bassist Matteo while both rocked out, and were supported by the enthusiastic Richard’s uptempo drumming. The band were a strong unit, interacting well on-stage and “feeling” the music visibly. Ann-Sofie proved she wasn’t just a competent singer as during “Hang Man” she shook her maracas (not an innuendo), and in other tracks such as “Fraction” whipped out a harmonica. It would be fair to describe Spiders’ set as high-octane, and the energetic response the crowd gave them supported that, although asking metalheads to clap along did not go down so well.
Finally, to complete the Swedish Invasion, the night’s main entertainment arrived: fellow Swedes Graveyard sauntered onstage and immediately struck up with “Industry Of Murder” from their latest, Lights Outs. The band gained a strong reception from the start, as vocalist Joakim Nilsson wailed and crooned over rocking number and tender ballad, both of which were in abundance. Naturally, their 3rd album was mostly on the cards, as they rolled out “Seven Seven”, “Goliath” and others, although they also had choice cuts of Hisingen Blues and their self-titled début. “Uncomfortably Numb” was particularly moving, as was “Slow Motion Countdown”, as melodies were teased out of oversized guitars by both Nilsson and Jonathan Ramm. Groove was also in abundance, provided by Rikard Edlund on bass and the ever-grinning Axel Sjöberg on drums mixed in with the blues to great effect in a “blues-n’-roll” formula.
Although the band were not as energetic physically, their sound more than made up for it, and filled the packed venue right to the last track. Despite being forced to leave early due to Last Train Syndrome, my girlfriend and I felt musically sated and got more than our money’s worth.
All in all, another very successful and enjoyable time was had at The Fleece, a gig that turned out bluesier than a Smurf convention. If you enjoy the genre in any fashion, and you haven’t sampled what Graveyard and Spiders have to offer, then do yourself a favor and pick up their latest efforts, as I promise they will be rewarding listens.