In order to put this gig in context, I have to first explain a bit of a background story, as a spotty teenager I was a tasty guitar player (or so I thought) but as the years progressed, friends went off to uni, I got a job and life took over and the dream of being in a kick-ass band laying down tasty licks died. Fast forward twenty-odd years and I have once again picked up the guitar with a mid-life crisis looming and a bit of disposable income I once again find myself with a six-string on my back, “I’m wanted, wanted” …. No, wait, got sidetracked there! Anywho, like so many wannabe bedroom warriors come rockstars, I turned to the absolute monster that is YouTube for inspirado, and in this crazy world, I have found something I absolutely love in this guitar community of internet stars, a plethora of people who I can relate too and procrastinate with. The Captain and Chappers, Danish Pete, Rabea Massaad, Ola Englund, Shawn Tubbs, Paul Davids and our very own Mr Chris Buck. The world of guitar has moved on dramatically since my days learning as a teenager, the tutorials available now on YouTube or via these guys direct through skype is a gamechanger in many ways, as also has the gear and the ability to self-record from home allowing for bedroom warriors to gain a massive following of their own, crazy times indeed.
Now from memory, I think my first actual time catching Chris play was as he demonstrated the Nextone Amp with Danish Pete, and Jesus H Christ I was mesmerized, right then, right there I knew this guy was something special. Now due to the heavy procrastination within the world of YouTube, I didn’t start hunting down videos of Chris like a stalker but instead let the process take an ethereal path. The gods listened and on my Facebake appears the listing for Buck & Evans at Voodoo Belfast away off in the distance. It may have taken a while for this date to arrive but the one, the only Mr Chris Buck is in the house! Cometh the day, cometh the band and as the 9 pm kick-off time approaches there is a healthy crowd in Voodoo Belfast to welcome the band on their Northern Irish debut.
The guys dropped their debut album Write A Better Day back mid-November and tonight they have an abundance of material to offer up to the Northern Irish crowd who have pushed their way forward as Chris and the band kick into the albums opening track ‘Slow Train’. Such a track which builds and builds until Chris is unleashed with the most sublime solo, dripping in rich bluesy tone and with a touch and technique that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck it is just sublime! A relatively simplistic guitar solo by Chris’s capabilities but that would be a theme in the evening and a testament to the player himself that his ability to make the guitar sing without overplaying is just jaw-dropping. The room goes wild at the end of their opening number as Belfast gives its seal of approval as the band members grin like Cheshire cats. The night was mainly made up of numbers from their latest offering and their three-track EP but one of the highlights for me was their cover of Otis Readings ‘Dreams To Remember’ which Chris joked about saying that “a lot of people may not be familiar with the number and if not, well we wrote it back in 1965” but this really was something special, I’d heard John Mayer touch on it with a brief rendition on Where The Light Is his live recording from L.A. but tonight Buck & Evans made it their own, building from a beautiful soft emotive track and vocals of Sally Ann Evans (vocals/keys) to an absolute crescendo that ended with a savage guitar solo from Chris and the backline of Dominic Hill (bass) and grumpy (by Chris’s own admission) Bob Richards (drums/vocals) but he has perked up the last few days!
Of course, I jest, but track after track tonight you got the most majestic performance from the band that wholeheartedly that demonstrates that Buck & Evans are most at home on the live stage. Yes, their debut recording is a beauty, a head-turner for sure announcing the arrival of an alternative option to your stereotypical Blues guitarist warbling in a band built around him, instead, you have a beautifully balanced, poised collection of musicians that totally compliment each other musically and fuse together to make gut-wrenching emotive performance larger than life. Sally-Ann Evans vocals are something to behold, when I first heard the album I must say I was taken aback with a female vocalist as it was so unexpected in a male-dominated industry and genre. Now we do ave our selection of fine Blues-ladies out there, from Samantha Fish, Beth Hart and Sarri Schoor to name but a few but for sure when you catch Buck & Evans live you absolutely know that Sally-Ann Evans is the right woman for the job. As the night progressed a lengthy set was coming to an end and all who were in attendance tonight knew they had witnessed something really special. The queue at the merch desk at the end of the night spoke volumes as to how invested this audience was in the band this evening and how genuinely appreciative the Northern Irish crowd is of a quality Blues band.
Chris Bucks playing looks effortless, Sally’s vocals are hypnotizing and savage backline make up for a killer band, a hungry Northern Irish crowd and a love of the Blues, Voodoo Belfast hosted one of its finest gigs of the year to date.
The guys have a few more dates for 2020 and I highly, no implore you to take advantage of this fine band while you can.
4.03.20 – The Cluny, Newcastle
16.05.20 – Abertillery Rock & Blues Festival
06.06.20 – Patti Pavillion, Swansea
27.06.20 – Wildfire Festival, Scotland
29.08.20 – Great British R&B Festival, Colne
10.10.20 – Bournefest, Kent
Tickets available at www.buckandevans.com
Review & Photography: Mark McGrogan
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