Chantel McGregor–Fibbers, 20/06/14

The details of why, as the first half of the year draws to a close, this was only the fifth gig I had attended and the first I had paid to see in 2014 don’t need to be recalled here. Suffice to say that I’m glad a change of circumstances allowed me to see a favourite act again, as well as to catch up with an old boss for the first time in years.

With no support act (I understand Hobo Joe & The Dead Cats had been approached but weren’t available – a shame as they would have been a good fit) Chantel took to the stage at eight thirty, with a very reasonable crowd already in the venue, and opened with a reverb-drenched, pounding version of Caught Out, her playing as effortless as ever. After a brief pause in the music while she explained how a trip to play a gig in Portugal the next day wasn’t going to be as glamorous as some people expected – “I’ll see the airport and maybe a hotel for an hour” – she segued her own Like No Other straight into Hendrix’s Voodoo Child, a song that, very much in a good way, you wouldn’t believe she was playing for probably the umpteenth time, as she wandered across the stage, trading smiles with drummer Keith McPartling and bass-player Richard Richie. There’s a lot of chemistry between the three of them and Chantel later admitted that she would miss them while playing the Portugal gig, although she might have revised that opinion during the banter about dieting towards the end of the set.

There was another brief pause, this time to allow the application of a safety pin to avoid an imminent wardrobe malfunction and then we got a sublime version of Screams Everlasting, during which the vocals, which had been slightly lost in the mix earlier, were much clearer above an opening consisting of quieter guitar and shimmering effects produced by brushing the cymbals with drumsticks. The instrumental end section, which varied from subtle to all-out rock, segued into Red House and Chantel, laughing during its introduction, displayed once again just how relaxed she is on stage. The Blues were dirty, her playing verging on the showing-off as the fingers of both hands moved up and down the frets. Richie seemed to shake his head as if in disbelief. “Ta,” came the acknowledgement afterwards, requested by someone apparently and greeted with delighted amusement by the majority. A new song, from the new album that Chantel couldn’t tell us about (although she seemed to be bursting to do so) was greeted with even more delight. Called, at present, Discover The Suicide (I think) it was rocky and, musically, a bit dark, short and punchy, with Chantel displaying a sort of “rock-chick” attitude while playing it. Explaining that she has been obsessed with Prince since seeing one of his UK shows recently, we next got a cover of Purple Rain. I’ve never seen Prince perform, but I can’t imagine he does the guitar work any better than we saw tonight.

The rest of the band then took a breather and Chantel played a short solo section, starting with the Tru Blood inspired swampy-Blues of No Good For You. Alone on stage, there was no hint of a lack of “comfort blanket” and you know that, despite her earlier claim, she’s going to do just fine in Portugal. You could have almost heard a pin drop during an acoustic version of Not Here With Me, the lovely vocals counterpointed by the raw emotion etched on Chantel’s face. With a little prompting the band returned to the stage for, after another bout of banter, a stunning rendition of Daydream. Afterwards, the near-coyness of her performance was once again replaced by her endearing, slightly more “ditzy” persona as she rambled on about using the word “hashtag” in conversation for the first time, then lets the audience remind her of her own upcoming gigs elsewhere in Yorkshire, before ending with a bouncing version of Fabulous and a non-encore – the trio didn’t even make an effort to leave the stage – of Freefalling.

With the whole set lasting just over ninety minutes the only disappointment was in remembering the Roman Bath days, when we would be treated to over two hours of Chantel’s genius. However, when the music is this good, there is little to complain about. Here’s to the next time.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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