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ConcertsThe Kris Barras Band, The Church, Dundee, 21st September 2018

Posted on Tuesday, September 25 2018 @ 22:10:47 CDT by Steven Reid
Concert Reviews

They shouldn’t even have been here. However, Harrogate in England’s loss was undoubtedly Dundee in Scotland’s gain, as The Kris Barras Band refused to let the cancellation of a previously announced show stop them. Instead they decided to delight the small but enthusiastically packed Church in Dundee with some of the finest blues and countrified rock it is ever likely to experience. Sea of Tranquility’s Steven Reid entered the place of worship to genuflect at the alter of the blues!

With this tour being one of those where a different local band opens the show every night it was to Black Cat Bone’s great credit that not only did they quickly get the crowd on side, they ensured that not one person’s attention wandered before they had their final say. Fronted by the gravel voiced Ross Craig, who also blasts a mean harmonica, there’s a real authenticity about the deep but heavy blues grooves this outfit lay down. Deservedly they had a healthy queue eager to meet them at the merch stall (well, it was a box, but let’s not dwell on that) after their breathless, bullish set. If they can get their message out there, this Edinburgh outfit could go the distance.

Surrounded by a band every inch as talented as the main man himself, Kris Barras is a surprisingly unassuming chap, his rippling, tattoo adorned torso offset by a shy smile and boyish charm. With bassist Elliott Blackler looking like an off-shift accountant and drummer Will Beavis so engrossed in his snare smacking that he barely notices the crowd is just 10 feet in front of him, you might not even give these guys a second glance if they passed you in the street. However, with the beard of keyboard player Josiah J Manning desperately trying to take the evening’s top billing, what these lads lack in rock star preening they make up for with out and out talent and a sharp eye for a killer riff. That this lot can hurtle from the traditional tones of “Small Town Blues” to the commercially edged and utterly stonking “Propane”, without ever losing one ounce of momentum, shows that when the blues come from both the head and the heart, they can be a thing of true beauty.

Through the twin hit of “Kick Me Down” and Stitch Me Up” the sing-alongs come thick and fast, but then so do the virtuoso performances; Barras pulling all manner of emotions from his fretboard. However, he’s no spotlight hogger and the nimble fingered five string bass work from Blackler, and Hammond harassment from Manning are allowed to flow with equal vigour. In fact, even the drum solo from Beavis caused whoops and hollers of delight, the right hand control from this mean man of time so precise that some in attendance didn’t even notice that his full throttle snare roll and round the kit didn’t involve his left appendage at all. Although they soon did when the expert stick twirling caused a blur in the air, as the remaining piece of wood flurried across the toms.

With full force cowbell abuse announcing new cut “What A Way To Go”, the future for Barras and his band already looks bright, but the nod to the past provided by the stellar cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” was equally masterful. As was the poised rearrangement of this undoubted classic that saw Barras add an extra sprinkle of his own six-string technique without ever overstepping the mark. But then we shouldn’t have been surprised, the copious solos that augment these cleverly catchy songs dropping jaws at will as “She’s More Than Enough” segued neatly into an impassioned explosion of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie”, and “Nothing To Hide” hit ever higher heights.

Dedicating it to his sadly departed father, who obviously played a huge part in Barras’s love for this music, “Watching Over Me” was a fitting, poignant, tribute to a man who is undoubtedly looking down on his son with a real sense of pride. Leaving “Lovers Or Losers” to wrap up the set in scintillating style, Barras rolling out tricks that in other hands could be viewed as old and hackneyed. But as he hurled his axe behind his head and stepped up the soloing and then continued the trick with his teeth, there was no doubt that we were in the presence of a true axe-expert. Therefore it was apt that “Rock n’ Roll Runnin’ Through My Veins” brought the night to a close, the well deserved encore every inch as energetic as every other number that had preceded it.

It was a genuine privilege to see a musician and band as good as this in a venue so small, but it will be a travesty if we ever get that chance again. Kris Barras and his band are surely destined for much, much bigger things.

Photos - Vicki Scott and Steven Reid

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