Despite thinking that I was going to miss the start of tonight’s gig (Andy Murray’s Wimbledon quarter-final finished a fair few minutes after my normal departure time), I still managed to arrive with plenty of time to down a leisurely pint in The Last Drop Inn and to have a chat with one of the band members when I returned to Fibbers. Aaah, the joys of the later starting, two band gig.
First up were Hobo Joe And The Dead Cats, opening proceedings with Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love with Paul Winn on vocals and Rich Tull playing the instantly recognisable guitar riff. Paul took up one of his array of harmonicas during the powerhouse instrumental opening to Freddie King’s Going Down and you certainly can’t accuse the band of not being energetic, even with the slower instrumental section towards the end of the song. “I’m done,” groaned Rich before slowing things down even further with a brilliant version of Hendrix’s Red House, this time with Rich on vocals, Paul swapping harmonicas and wringing notes out of them. The crowd are obviously fans of the Blues (they wouldn’t be here otherwise) and this track gets a great reception from them. A slower pace means a refreshed and rejuvenated band and they liven things up again with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride And Joy. This time Paul pulls dual duties on vocals and harmonica (not at the same time). A staccato rhythm played on drum rims heralds the opening to ZZ Top’s La Grange. Paul’s vocals are low and dirty, at least to start with, and Rich leaps into the air the guitar section begins. The track is mostly instrumental and utterly brilliant and gets another rousing reception from the crowd. Vocal duties pass back to Rich for The Rolling Stones’ Can’t Always Get What You Want, a song that builds beautifully to a set-ending crescendo and completes a great opening to the evening.
I first saw Marcus Bonfanti two years ago as a solo artist supporting Sandi Thom at The Duchess. Tonight he is playing with his band (Scott Wiber on drums and Alex Reeves on bass) and, apparently, hadn’t realised that Fibbers existed, but is now in love with the place. He opens strongly with Stone Me Sober, his vocals bordering on hoarse. The rhythm section play an impromptu jam while Marcus makes adjustments to his guitar before the next song. “At least you know it’s live,” he grins. There’s a new album – Shake The Walls – out and we get Jezebel from it then Devil Girl from What Good Am I To You the previous release. There’s a superb dirty guitar section in the middle before the song simply fades away. There’s a reasonable crowd in and the majority have moved away from the bar. “Seems like Wednesday is the night to be out in York,” says Marcus. “You should have been here last night,” comes a reply from the floor, referring to the ever-better attended Toseland gig. It’s back to the new album for We All Do Bad Sometimes and Cheap Whisky. The latter features a simple yet strong and effective rhythm base and Marcus throws in an impressive guitar solo (not the first of the set), his long hair flying. Blind Alley is introduced as the closest thing to a love song we’ll get and it has a vaguely Country and Western feel to it. There’s a nice mix of guitar styles with Honest Boy being played bottle-neck style and Alley Cat being played on a steel guitar. It is the rockiest song so far and gets some sections of the crowd dancing. “Feel free to sing along,” invites Marcus before playing Bang Of A Gun, with the fastest lyrics of the set. Then there’s a slow sultry opening, complete with buzzing bee effect being played on the guitar, which soon transforms into a lovely “swampy” sound for the brilliant Honey. My Baby Don’t Dance livens things up before Give Me Your Cash ends the main set, as last time, cheekily accompanied by multiple references to the location of the merchandise desk and what can be found on it.
The encore starts with Marcus performing The Bittersweet solo, somehow managing to drop in the fact that Hard Times, his first album, has been deemed not important enough to be re-released. A knowledgeable audience members informs him that is is available on iTunes, to his apparent surprise. The rest of the band return, one handing Marcus a glass from the green room. “Irn Bru,” he explains, holding it up before taking a swig and letting out a sigh of satisfaction. “That ain’t Irn Bru…” The final song of the night was Leave This Long Haired Country Boy Alone (a Charlie Daniels cover, I think) and it provided a very impressive finale, with even more different guitar styles. How many other Blues guitarists “shred”?
After the gig, Marcus and his band made themselves available to sign purchases and chat in general, seeming in no hurry to move anybody on and proving once again that he is as nice as he is talented.