Jared James Nichols // Bad Luck Friday // Live Review // The Black Heart // London
Walking down the hustling, bustling main road that leads up to Camden I spot a tall, quite striking figure coming towards me. Large and broad with a lion’s mane floating fiercely in the London wind. That leather jacket, those warm tones coming out of a wide grin. Even me, having never seen the man before in the flesh knew it just had to be Jared James Nichols on his trip here across the pond in promotion of his latest album and a continuous stream of new material.
His self-titled third album, released last year is one heck of a ride and something I couldn’t personally wait to see live. Though very much blues-based, the album brings out so much genre layering and subtle production altercations that it could never claim to be a one-genre trick pony. Good things were heard from fans, and great things were heard from a fellow musical acquaintance. It was time for me to hear for myself and put literal pen to paper.
Support act Bad Luck Friday opens, embracing us into the night. A knockout four piece they combine rock n roll with a country twist. Title track ‘Bad Luck Friday’ – as heard as the opening number on their debut album – is a foot-to-the-floor introduction to the band and who they are. Which let me tell you now, is one heck of a good time. ‘666 at The Crossroads’ is as anthemic as it sounds and certainly has the crowd singing right from that first punch-out chorus.
The utterly unique thing about Bad Luck Friday is that their set (and material) features almost no guitar solo work. Which isn’t to say the guitar element isn’t the top game. Steve Brook plays it the cool as the six-string messiah with stick-in-head riffs ready at the touch. But the interesting thing is the frontman and lead vocalist Will Wilde slams out the harmonica on pretty much every song, soloing with skill and theatrics. It was something I never knew I needed until I saw it. This a definite recommendation if you haven’t seen them yet.
As the room reaches its sold-out capacity the eager tension in the air rises as the venue up the noise in the speakers to blast out that initiating pre-show song. One song turns into two and we’re stumped for a few minutes before the man of the night and his band enter. We then become encased in a chorus of cheers and hollering as they launch into ‘Bad Roots’. From the get-go it’s all high energy and hair as the trio ensure us with their immediate easy repertoire and obvious mastery of musicianship.
Second on the setlist is the unfathomably catchy ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’. From the first time I’d listened to the new record, I’d had this blue stuck in my head and at the back of my throat. Nichols does not let that feeling go down. It’s glorious guitar mania as Nichols and his sleek Gibson go hand in hand with echoer, twisting out intricate fingerwork and accurate picking. We all go to a blues show expecting improvement and suave sidestepping but Nichols stands firm in a lead of his own, taunting us with each pluck before shaking out laughter with that insatiable smile.
This London audience takes him as one of their own, goading him on during each mouth-watering elongated solo. In a venue such as The Black Heart the musicians are such close proximity to their audience that with a packed out room, a certain kind of energy can either go one way or another when judging their entertainer for the evening. I’m glad – and not surprised – to say tonight the room was abuzz with Jared James Nichols adoration and I’m sure about half of the men in the room had very familiar-looking hair and beard attire. ‘I fucking love playing England, I’m so glad to be back!’
As we get through the set each song out do’s the one before. ‘Down The Drain’ comes swinging in as the steady starter, lapping into a full-on blues guitar fiasco with some fantastic work from drummer Dennis Holm. ‘Hard Wired’ is the fierce foot-stomper, starting with another Nichols solo smattering before moulding into its full band spread with. Bassist Diego Edsel also provides some great backing vocals to flesh out their live set. The ethereally played ‘Shadow Dancer’ is a different take from the studio album but in a way, it makes you want to buy the live version and compare them both to either strength.
‘Good Time Girl’ and ‘Threw Me To The Wolves’ showcase Nichols’s undeniably prodigal skills with the latter really pulling on his diverse songwriting skills that see the set jump from level to level effortlessly. The crowd certainly agree as pints are passed and cheers rife.
Edsel brings as much theatrical delight as Nichols, jumping up onto the front of the stage ledge with his frontman before diving back down, throwing his bass up to the ceiling without missing a beat. It’s always great to see all members of a band throwing the same demands on themselves as their lead. The onstage performance becomes limitless, an ever source of entertainment wherever you look as Jared James Nichols and his band do flawlessly.
‘Nails In The Coffin’ followed by the fetchingly good ‘Skin ’n’ Bone’ sit well beneath Nichol’s husky drawl. His voice is a commanding presence in its own right, both well-ranged and unique; a wildcat bellow to make the rock gods proud.
As Nichols announces his last song the audience cheers out demanding more, ’5 more songs!!’ They chant. Nichols grins knowingly before whacking out a cover of Black Sabbaths’ War Pigs’ which, though surprising, is a much-welcomed guest and a snarlingly great look on the guitarist and singer.
With that the night ends on a nostalgia sucker punch of musical greatness. Jared James Nichols excels in his output of recorded material and exceeds any expectations of his live performance. Even with the bar raised, Jared James Nichols will jump higher and do it with style. A great night, a fantastic show and one hell of a charismatic musician.
Review: Monty Sewell
A Big thank you to Phil Honley, Paul May and Tim Russell for the use of their images.