Eric flew into the UK for the first time on that hateful day of the Manchester, Arianne Grande Concert bombing. Maybe not the most enthralling of welcomes to someone who has come over to the UK on the first leg of his 12 night European tour. Starting on May 24th in Edinburgh and finishing on July 30th at this years, Ramblin’ Man festival in Maidstone Kent with the supersonic blues machine. The 8 UK dates will see him playing in Scotland as well as the south coast. He’ll then go on to play in Germany and Spain, including the Leganes Blues festival on June 9th and the then back to the UK for Ramblin’ Man at the end of July.
Gales is touring on the back of his new album ‘Middle of the Road’ which was released on Feb 24th to great reviews from such magazines as Blues in Britain and Blues Matters, along with articles in Total Guitar and Guitarist magazines for those aspiring axemen out there.
Joe Bonamassa has gone on record saying that Gales is probably the best guitarist on the planet bar none, mighty praise indeed, but then with other fans the like of Tremonti, Santana, and Dave Navarro, former member of the red Hot Chilli Peppers and founding guitarist of alternative rock band, Jaynes Addiction, he has a fan base that includes some of the most influential guitarists out there.
This scorching new album is his 15th in a career that’s spanned more than 30years which has included time in jail back in 2009, for possession of drugs and firearms, but even inside he was allowed to play shows, including Festivals. Testament to how talented this man is.
The show, in the infamous Robin 2, was supported by the very talented Tom Walker Trio. This likable, bearded young man shows a talent beyond his 22 years. Playing a black n gold Strat he calmly shows the Robin 2 crowd why Gales has picked him for the support slot. Sadly it’s all over before it’s started as he goes into his farewell track, the inspiring John Henry, an American Folk legend who built the railroads across the USA, made popular by that guitar maestro that is Joe Bonamassa. He leaves the stage to great applause. Tom is touring the UK throughout July and into August.
Gales walks on to thunderous applause. It maybe the middle of the week but the fans have ventured out to see this great man, something that Gales is very quick to acknowledge. He goes on to tell of his arrival to the UK, his first time here, on that horrific day of senseless slaughter in Manchester and how it scared him, as it would anyone. He praises the way it was handled and, as has become customary at the moment, led the gathered into a silence for those lost. He thanks the crowd for coming out and then starts the first number, a funky instrumental jam that see’s him wandering back and forth across the stage with a big smile on his face, fingers suitably warmed up, he launches into ‘Change in me’ track 2 off the new album. This marks a change in Gales as he tells the crowd of his years of addiction, something that’s been well documented. He points out that he feeds off the energy we give him and that the night was going to be emotional, tear filled and with the very likely hood that he will spontaneously combust so is his desire to get his emotions and energy out. ‘Boogie Man’ follows, track 3 of the new album and the only cover on it, by the late Freddie King which features Gary Clarke on the album but sadly not in Bilston.
You give me the energy, and I’ll give you more, back he goes onto say, I’m going to give it you anyway, if you’re in any doubt. His next track, also a cover, originally done by his old friend and mentor Buddy Guy, is ‘Baby Please don’t leave me’ it starts with a drum solo leading into a catchy bass riff and then the guitar follows, quickly builds and then the pyrotechnics starts. This left handed guitarist starts throwing shapes and sounds right out of left field, channelling his inner most feelings into his fingers, obviously lost in his own world as he mesmerises the gathered crowd. Prowling back and forth as he makes this song his own, face contorted as he oozes pure emotion….
With sweat pouring down his face he takes time to wipe it away, a large swallow from an energy drink he introduces the back line to the crowd, on bass and looking very much like the late Jaco Pastourious is Cody Wright and bashing the tubs is Nick Hayes who both promptly drop into a duet with moments of pure magic from Cody as he makes sounds from his bass that doesn’t seem possible. Wearing his beanie he moves around the stage, adjusts his pedals and cracks on, the drums being sensibly beaten as we see these two enjoy the stage to themselves albeit to briefly. Gales walks back on stage, picks up his guitar, acknowledges his band mates and then lets fly with an onslaught of guitar wizardry that doesn’t seem possible from an upside down back to front piece of wood. Hailed as the next great thing since Hendricks, Gales goes into ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’, a choice no doubt derived from his visit to that dark place for so many years as he builds a monumental solo around this well known riff, the crowd acknowledges this by singing back the chorus.
Playing just 3 tracks of his new album, Gales introduces track 11 called Swamp, he goes on to say it’s the best track on the whole record (big vinyl disc played using a needle on a gramophone). He instructs us to whoop, holler and cheer for at least 15 minutes after the song is finished as it features his wife LaDonna Gales on percussion and her tambourine solo, something that would warm the heart of many a Salvation Army band member, as she really gets into it, especially with Gales looking on in admiration. The crowd duly oblige, he won’t be sleeping in the Van tonight.
That was the last song of the set save for another Hendricks favourite, Catfish Blues, he introduces it with a request that when he leaves the stage it would be Jolly Nice and Splendid if we hoot and hollor for him to return. He loves the English accent and hearing us talk as it sounds that even though we may be broke, we’re the richest folk in the world !!
And so Catfish starts, full of Funky chops and blistering finger work, occasionally dropping in a couple of classic Hendrick’s riff’s as he demonstrates his mastery of the guitar. He stops mid solo to tell a guy in the crowd that he is a dead ringer of the late Greg Allman, referring to him as a cool dude, and then it’s back into the solo, throwing in a bit of AC/DC’s Back In Black just because he can.
He leaves the stage and the shouting starts, suitably refreshed the band return to the stage were gales addresses the audience once more with his message. As is seen so often these days that when a great has been through a rough patch they need to tell the world about it, Gales is no different.
Stating that he hopes he has inspired at least one person tonight to be a better person and that there is no room for hate when there is love. In tears such is his emotion he drops into the final song for the night the much requested Block out the sun. A display of vocal harmonies with LaDonna and yet more flamboyant playing from this master. A great end to an inspirational evening of guitar wizardry.
Some say Eric Gales is the best, and without doubt he is definitely up there, whether his style is your cup of tea is subjective. He’s is an obvious guitarists choice but possibly a little to self indulgent for the masses. Something I heard several times on the way out of the venue. I think it helped if you understood the dark places that he referred to during his set, this would probably help in understanding his raw emotion and his need to be a role model.
I’m looking forward to his return visit in the autumn, he’s an amazing artist with an astonishing gift. The album is anything but Middle of the Road and is a great addition to his discography.
Sadly there were no #BOOM T-Shirts as I would have added one to my growing collection, he was that good.
Words & pictures Manny Manson