An unlikely night for a gig – but despite it being a Sunday, there was quite a queue outside of The Tunnels in Bristol on this evening.
Just two bands on stage tonight – Mark Pontin Group, a lively trio all the way from Swansea and headliner, The Kris Barras Band, led by the UK’s new blues rock guitarist Kris Barras, who’s turning lots of heads as he’s making waves in the blues charts.
The Tunnels in Bristol is a particularly intimate venue although many well known bands have played there and got the T-shirt. But Kris Barras has become a mammoth name in the blues world of late with news earlier this year that he is to become the new front man for Supersonic Blues Machine, with legend Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and Walter Trout.
Kicking off at about 8pm, the Mark Pontin Group(or in Mark’s words the MPG) came out onto a rather cramped stage with two drum kits and guitar racks, Kris Barras speakers and an unusual choice of rug for the band to perform on – something like they’d stolen it from their Nan’s house before the gig. But it gave a warm and friendly vibe nonetheless and the band jumped straight into their first track ‘Cold Day Tune’ with no introduction. In fact, this first track was their introduction and gave the crowd a taste of what they were all about putting them in a good stance for the rest of their set. With a tremendous amount of psychedelic guitar riffs and funky bass lines, there also came quite a few breaks which had the crowd stumped several times, sometimes wondering if it was time to applaud.
When the first track was over it was time for the introduction, which was led by Mark himself – a cheerful chap who interacted well with the crowd by cracking a few jokes to break the ice. Although the venue wasn’t at full capacity at this stage of the night, the crowd was forthcoming after having such a dominant track thrown at them so early in the evening.
During mid-set, MPG covered Jimi Hendrix’s trippy ‘Manic Depression’ – an uptempo triple-metered track with a parallel guitar and bass line, which they pulled off admirably, although their final track ‘Three Wishes Part 1’ was no doubt the finale of their set. With multifarious melodies, diverse guitar solos soaked in tremolo and a pounding bass, this ‘jam’ made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. These guys had definitely made their mark on stage giving any band a run for their money.
A quick break whilst the stage was cleared of MPG’s gear and the techs were out sound checking and tuning that second rack of guitars including a beaten but well beloved Telecaster. And it wasn’t long before The Kris Barras Band were out – a little earlier than expected and with a 16 track set list to fulfil.
The band are part way through their UK tour which runs right through until December and have shot to the top of the Amazon and iTunes Blues Chart with their number one album ‘The Divine and Dirty’ which was released earlier this year. It’s no wonder that they’re one of the most sought after live acts on the Blues/Rock scene today.
With two full sleeves and a torso of tattoos covered by a muscle vest, Kris and the rest of the band picked up their instruments and launched straight into their set after just a few word from Kris.
First track of the night was ‘Heart on your Sleeve’from the bands first album ‘Lucky 13’and by this time the crowd had drawn closer together as the temperature seemed to soar. After only a couple of tracks Kris, a former martial arts pro, had to dowse himself with a towel before he played the next track on the list.
Grabbing his mic on the stand covered in what appeared to be old bike chains, Kris invited the crowd to join in with ‘Propane’, a track from their new album that had avid fans shouting the lyrics before the band powered on.
Top hit of the night had to be ‘Hail Mary’, a signature track from the new album, which had a strong blues/country vibe and one hell of a guitar and bass solo. Owning that stage, he moved back and forth to the other band members and didn’t take his eyes off his guitar as his tattooed knuckles and fingers slid up and down those frets like it was second nature. Clearly this guy had talent and it almost felt like the band were too big for this small venue. With such musicianship and professionalism, you would have expected to see a band of this calibre play at a stadium – surely not in Bristol on a Sunday night.
Kris’ coarse and gravelly voice blended well with the band and the mix was spot on in such a tight venue. The crowd were treated by an incredible drum solo which gave the rest of the band a bit of a breather and during the final track of the night ‘Rock N Roll Running through My Veins’, Kris showed just how he earned his place in the Top 15 of the Best Blues Guitarists in the World by playing the guitar behind his back and then plucking those strings with his pearly whites. And the crowd loved it.
With many influences in their music, it’s pretty damn obvious from the bands talent the reason why they have come so far in such a short space of time. It’s just a real shame that not all of the band members shared the same enthusiasm as Kris on the stage tonight.
Kris is a straight-up kinda guy with a lot of soul that’s reflected in his music. His passion is flagrant and with the skill he has at his fingertips, his journey to the very top of the Blue’s World is imminent.
Review & Photography: Emma Painter
Full Tour Dates
Tickets available from www.krisbarrasband.com
07 Sep Phoenix, Exeter
09 Sep Ekletica Festival, Isle of Wight
11 Sep Talking Heads, Southampton
12 Sep Engine Room, Lincoln
13 Sep Asylum 2, Birmingham
14 Sep Patriot Crumlin, South Wales
15 Sep Corporation, Sheffield
16 Sep The Tunnels, Bristol
18 Sep Trillians, Newcastle
19 Sep Club Rock, Carlisle
20 Sep King Tuts, Glasgow
21 Sep The Church, Dundee
22 Sep Night & Day, Manchester
23 Sep Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool
24 Sep 100 Club, London
25 Sep Brickmakers, Norwich
27 Sep Flowerpot, Derby
29 Sep The Kent Blues Collective Festival, Gillingham
01 Oct Playhouse, Whitey Bay w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
02 Oct Brudenell Social Club, Leeds w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
03 Oct Apex, Bury St Edmunds w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
05 Oct ARC, Stockton w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
06 Oct Live Room, Chester w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
07 Oct Robin, Bilston w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
09 Oct O2 Academy, Oxford w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
12 Oct Concorde, Brighton w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
13 Oct Roadmenders, Northampton w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
14 Oct Public Halls, Harpenden w/JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR
01 Nov Guild Hall, Preston w/GUN
02 Nov Tivoli, Buckley w/GUN
03 Nov Queens Hall, Nuneaton w/GUN
11 Nov Palais de la Musique et des Congres, Strasbourg, FRANCE w/BETH AHRT
13 Nov Theatre Sebastopol, Lille, FRANCE w/BETH HART
15 Nov Theatre Alexandre Dumas, St-Germain-En-Laye, FRANCE w/BETH HART
17 Nov Le Vinci, Tours, FRANCE w/BETH HART
19 Nov Cite Des Congres, Nantes, FRANCE w/BETH HART
21 Nov Theatre Femina, Bordeux, FRANCE w/BETH HART
23 Nov Bourse du Travail, Lyon, FRANCE w/BETH HART
25 Nov Les Espaces Culturels du Silo d’Arenc, Marseille, FRANCE w/BETH HART
01 Dec Planet Rockstock, Trecco Bay, WALES