Blues In Britain Magazine, Issue 147 March 2014Live Review, Sydenham Blues Club, 10th Jan 2014
Crystal Palace is pretty much beyond the outer limits of my (public transport-limited) range for gig-going, but I didn't want to miss an act who have been making waves in the blues scene, particularly with their most recent release 'The Blues Don't Scare Me'. Sadly venue consideration meant this wasn't the full Blue Commotion line up (minus Si Genaro's harp and Pete Whittaker's Hammond) but Zoe, Rob Koral on guitar, Paul Robinson drums and Pat Davey bass delivered a rawer, more open, take on songs from that release, their previous album Good Times and a handful of judicious covers.
There was no question of easing themselves in gently as they kicked off with a barnstorming take on Etta James' 'Something's Got A Hold On Me'. Zoe belting out the lines with gusto. There was bags of 'oomph' in the band's rocking version of the 1964 classic 'Feeling Good' and Zoe really let loose on Koko Taylor's 'Voodoo Woman'. Much of the set was drawn from the new album, showing their magpie's eye for different styles, from the slow blues of 'We'll Find A Way', through the Motownesque swagger of 'Say It Isn't So' to the heavy portentous descending chord riff of 'I Believe In You', closing in an epic solo from Rob over increasingly complex and thunderous drum fills. The title track was given a harder Quo-like edge than the recorded version and there was a country tinge to the train track-rhythm and twangsome guitar on 'Liberated Woman'. Rob's own song 'Heroes', a moody, smoky, slow blues featured his best solo of the night, restrained fluid and tasteful and there was excellent way-wah playing and gritty vocals on the up tempo New Orleans stomp of 'Take Me Back' while a loose slinky take on Willie Dixon's 'I Can't Quit You Babe', (drawing heavily on the Led Zeppelin version) saw Zoe's voice reaching Plantesque proportions in the closing bars.
Sydenham Blues Club itself is a nice venue while it may only be the bar of the Grape & Grain pub the sound was better and the stage area bigger than at some more famous venues and the bulk of the people were there to hear the music, even indulging in some vigorous dancing to the livelier numbers. All well-worth the three hour round trip.
- Words by: Moray Stuart