It was 20 degrees outside the Tunnels in Bristol tonight, though it was pleasantly cool inside the venue for the most part. Despite the appealing weather conditions on a Friday night, there was a decent number in attendance to watch headliner Oli Brown and support act The Blue Horizon.
A couple of dedicated fans had already taken their positions in front of the stage before Western-Super-Mare-based The Blue Horizon graced the stage. Initiating proceedings with a lively pure Rock song, singer Iain Eccleston sung of “Wasting time”, however for the early birds watching it was anything but, being rewarded with a great performance by the band. Dropping the pace a few notches, second song ‘Justified’ soon showed the way for the peaks and troughs of tone, style and tempo throughout their heavy Blues Rock sound.
Whilst introducing mellowest song ‘Vanishing Point,’ Eccleston reveals that he’s been keeping tabs on Oli Brown’s work for a long time, recalling how Oli’s music reminds him of the time he met his now wife. Eccleston’s talented guitar work is certainly a draw, and on this song the crowd numbers seem to swell a bit while he works his way through one of the solos. ‘Vanishing Point’ gets the most cheers of their set, and they receive a number of appreciative whoops after finishing their fifth and final song.
Belying his young 29 years of age, tonight Englishman Oli Brown is playing for a noticeably older crowd to mark the start of a 10 year anniversary tour for his first album Open Road. In fact, he’s been playing on the road since he was 15. Oli is better known as the lead singer of Hard Rock outfit Raveneye, but for these shows he is returning to his Blues foundations, backed by a band comprised of bassist Aaron Spiers (also of Raveneye) and King King member Wayne Proctor on drums.
Although the Open Roadanniversary is the catalyst for the show, only a few cuts off of that record are played tonight; the rest of the set made up of tracks from second album Heads I Win, Tails You Lose, third album Here I Am, and a few standalone songs. The band starts off with the strutting groove of ‘Thinking About Her’ from his second album, followed by ‘Evil Soul’ and its whirling skiffle and solo that really showed off Brown’s guitar mastery, gaining the first whistles of approval from the crowd. Taken from album number three, a strong, punchy rhythm section took the lead on ‘Here I Am’, with its more straight-forward Classic Rock approach hinting at Oli’s desire to mix things up.
Traffic in the South West had been particularly busy today and Oli said they’d been caught up in it on the way to the venue. The likely culprit for the congestion being Ed Sheeran and his concert in Cardiff contributing to the M4 being clogged up – leaving Oli wondering whether Ed had stolen away some people from his own show. They’d have certainly been missing out if that was the case, with Oli’s next song ‘Speechless’ having an incredibly catchy line of lyrics in its chorus that would rival anything Mr Sheeran could ever produce.
The first song from Open Roadfinally got played for the fifth song of the night: ‘Missing You.’ With the tempo dialled right down and the instruments stripped back, Oli’s soulful vocals took over before he impressed with an intricate solo close to the two-minute mark. It appeared that this was the best received song of the whole show.
Introduced as being written whilst on hiatus in Canada, ‘You Can Be’ starts with a very catchy riff that sounds like it has indeed come straight from North America. Bar a few of the audience members dancing to most of the grooves of the night, the crowd was largely static, but this song certainly had a large number of heads nodding in unison. The song appears to have only been released digitally on Oli’s Bandcampwebsite, but deserves to be included on his next Blues release.
Oli’s singing was particularly fantastic on the song with the sparsest number of lyrics, ‘Love’s Gone Cold,’ showing great control of the notes and sounding not too far away from Chris Cornell. Shortly after, the band played an acoustic number (another from the Canada sessions) with Proctor tapping away at the cymbals with his hands, and Spiers switched from bass to acoustic guitar whilst also sharing some lovely vocal harmonies with Oli. Pleasingly, there was barely a conversation to be heard in the crowd to spoil this quieter section. A member of the crowd asked for this live exclusive song to be recorded and Oli seemingly promised to make that happen for him.
Next up, R&B artist D’Angelo’s ‘Brown Sugar’ was covered, and like all good cover songs the band laid down their own different take on the original. This was particularly apparent with Aaron Spiers providing a quality bass solo towards the end, with the level of required concentration etched all over his face – the crowd loved this moment.
To finish off the gig, the band played two songs from Open Road. Oli succeeded in getting the crowd to join in with the singing on penultimate choice, ‘Stone Cold (Roxanne),’ and choosing to forgo the pantomime of an encore, they ended by playing a cover of ‘Black Betty.’
Oli was clearly enjoying the praise and attention he received throughout the show, a big smile often seen on his face. Both bands performed faultlessly, showcased strong vocals and musicianship, and come highly recommended.
Bristol was the first night of a thirteen date run across the UK in celebration of the Open RoadAnniversary Tour, so you still have plenty of time to catch these crazy cats while you can.
Review: Adam Lusby
Photography: Emma Painter