It’s my second gig of the weekend – a welcome and much anticipated return to the Roman Bath for my current favourite guitarist, Chantel McGregor and her band, Martin Rushworth on drums and Alex Jeffrey on bass (Lincoln J. Roth having moved on a few weeks ago).
Although recovering from illness Chantel managed to charm and enthrall us for another two-hour-plus set of classic rock and blues, consisting of old favourites and new tunes. (Well, new to me anyway.) OK, so there was no Clapton/Cream this time, which severely curtails my ability to put names to the songs, but Fleetwood Mac, Robin Trower, Steve Vai and the ubiquitous Jimi Hendrix were all featured, probably along with others that I didn’t hear introduced.
It may have been because of the recent bout of tonsillitis, but there seemed to me to be more guitar solos and less vocals than usual. In fact, the set list (recovered afterwards by Roj) contained more songs than were actually played. However, while Chantel’s vocals are a lot better than adequate, I would guess that most people watch her live to see and hear her stunning guitar work. Technically superb, she plays with an ease that seems to cry out, “why do others make this look so difficult??” Tonight’s solos were nothing less than brilliant and surely prove that, while still a covers artist, Chantel has the ability to play (if not write) her own material. Unfortunately, the Bath having the layout it does (and me not being the tallest in the world) I barely got a view of the stage area. However, I did see the incredible fret-work during Hendrix’s Red House – safe to say I’ve never seen anybody play the guitar in quite that way before and can only echo the comment of the old guy behind me when, at the end of that track, he said, “She’s incredible. Why is she playing pubs?”
What is, perhaps, only slightly less incredible is the fact that today was Chantel’s birthday. Still only twenty-two, she chooses to celebrate by entertaining us?? Somebody should point out that, on birthdays, the treats are supposed to flow in the direction of the celebrator…
It’s difficult to review a gig like this without focusing on Chantel, to the detriment of the other two members of the band. Martin’s drumming was, as ever, excellent but I find it hard to comment on the bass-player without actually seeing them play and thus being able to link finger movements with the actual bass-line. It may be damning with faint praise to simply say that Alex’s bass-playing was good enough that I barely noticed it. If you see what I mean…
I have said before that one of the pleasures, for me, of attending local gigs is discovering new music that you rarely get to hear anywhere else. Conversely, one of the pleasures of seeing Chantel play is discovering older music (and musicians) that have bypassed me. Eventually, this could end up costing me fortune – I have already, after tonight’s gig, ordered Steve Vai’s first five albums and I haven’t even started on Trower or Joe Bonamassa yet. I wonder if, one day, I will be playing a CD by Chantel herself. I have no idea whether her ultimate plan is to play and record her own material but I hope so. That way, when she becomes even more famous, I can say, “Chantel McGregor? Yeah, I was a fan of hers when she just played covers in pubs.”