When you actually sit down and think about it, there are numerous venues in York where you can see live music for free. Although I speak from a position of limited experience (at last count I think I have only been to four such venues, although I have seen quite a few bands at one of them), I’m fairly certain that the majority of bands appearing at such places are covers bands. There are the odd exceptions, bands that perform their own material – the excellent Breathing Space spring to mind, although I have also paid to see them – but, for the most part, you can hear a lot of the same songs or, at least, the same style of song, weekend after weekend.
It’s for that reason that I pick which covers bands I go out to see. The excellent, although now somewhat fractured, Hazzard County are always worth seeing, as were (are?) Freeway. There are probably others that I haven’t had the good fortune to encounter yet. There are few, however, that I would go out of my way to see. In fact, so far, I have only come across one.
Tonight at the Roman Bath, it was the Chantel McGregor Band. I’ve seen (and mentioned) them before and there was little chance that I was going to miss tonight’s gig.
The band has had a slight line-up change from the last time they were in York. Chantel and drummer Martin Rushworth have been joined by new bass-player Lincoln J. Roth (how much of a rock and roll name is that??!) who, incidentally, stands a good chance of pushing Brian May into second place if they ever both enter a Brian May look-alike contest… I can’t find any mention of why the previous bass-player is no longer with the band, but tonight was only Roth’s fifth gig. You couldn’t tell – his lively playing, on stage exuberance, funky solo and familiarity with both the material and the other two members of the trio made it seem as though he had been part of the line-up forever.
Chantel herself (the small-statured strummer with a predilection for kebabs) looked more relaxed than the last time she played. I can’t think of any obvious reason for this. If anything, the crowd was bigger than last time (one of the gang, turning up late, had to sneak in the back way after being refused entry at the front). Once again, she played brilliantly, with a seeming lack of any effort and managed to keep the audience entertained both with the music and with her stream of consciousness ramblings between songs. This time, there was no mid-set break and the band played for well over two hours, treating us to some of the best in rock and blues. Some of the songs were the same as last time, others were new. The set included, but was not limited to, covers of Jimi Hendrix (All Along t’Watchtower, Voodoo Chile, Purple Haze, Red House), Fleetwood Mac (Gold Dust Woman), Eric Clapton/Cream (Badge, Stormy Monday), Jethro Tull (Too Old to Rock and Roll) and Joe Bonamassa (Miss You, Hate You), as well as others that I can’t find artists for – Up In t’Sky, One Of These Days, For The Love of God. I’ve left Chantel’s broad Yorkshire versions of the titles in the list – those and her constant use of “Ta” brought even more smiles to the audience.
As expected, the playing was brilliant, with all three members of the band giving superb performances. As I have said before, it is too easy to run out of superlatives when talking about this band and, in particular, Chantel herself. She really does have to be seen for her playing to be believed. Unfortunately, according to her website, there are no more gigs planned for York for the rest of the year.