Tonight sees the return of The Kris Barras Band once again to Irish shores, not too long after his successful debut supporting Black Stone Cherry in the Ulster Hall.
Tonight we see Kris in all his glory headlining The Empire Music Hall, a historic building and the foundation for Blues in the city today, every Thursday night sees a Belfast institution Rab McCullough and his band graced the stage downstairs in their residency here at the Empire, Rab is one of the local Blues legends we have here in Northern Ireland and for many the father of Blues locally, tonight though is a totally different affair with a contemporary take on the old guard. Barras with a hefty reputation and rightly so, after many years grafting and honing his craft, is finally reaping the rewards for all his hard work. Second time around for this prizefighter. Barras’ love of the Blues and passion for his craft sees him gaining Momentum as a solo artist and also as a member of The Supersonic Blues Machine alongside none other than the legendary Billy F. Gibbons amongst others.
Barras has been ripping it up across the water (UK) for a while now and he took his time in reaching Irish shores but after a successful support slot with BSC at The Ulster Hall, he was snapped up once again for a solo gig and Belfast is grateful for that opportunity. In support tonight we have local band The Davy K Project, a tight trio fronted by Davy K, a blistering guitarist who can shred with the best of them. They have a gnarly sound all of their own, gritty and raw packed with attitude and with Davy’s intricate guitar work you can’t help but be mesmerized by their highly engaging set.
Throw in a Whitesnake cover and maybe a ZZ Top and I’ll be happy! fo shizzle! The roof was on fire by the time Davy K was leaving the stage and the kids down below we’re having a ball! Air guitars galore and the odd blow up one too for good measure, Belfast was in jovial form and we hadn’t even had our main act yet. Like a conductor, Davy K orchestrates the crowd as they sing along on his last song of the night and the place goes wild as he wraps up an impressive set.
Cometh the hour cometh the man, slightly later than advertised the lights started to flicker to indicate it was showtime! Tonight Barras has his full ensemble with two backing singers and keyboard player to bring that huge sound to life. Someone hinted he had a sore throat but on tonight’s performance nothing is holding him back as his vocals are on point, never mind the blistering guitar work, breathtaking at times along with a tight backline and superb addition of the two ladies, there’s a next-level element to tonight’s performance all round. Stunning from start to finish Barras has propelled an already staggering show to even greater heights, the Belfast crowd are lapping it up as Kris tosses out solos that leave you begging for more.
Playing tracks from his latest offering Light It Up right through to the first track he wrote with the band in mind, Barras has a plethora of material now to bend your mind with his six-string wizardry all meshed together by first-class songwriting and highly addictive hooks. Catchy tracks that get stuck in your head and have you warbling along in no time, so easy on the ear you forget the intricately interwoven guitar work that continues throughout. Barras is a revelation as a guitar player, one of the UK finest Bluesmen, born under a bad sign for sure but well worth the ticket price any day. A musician going from strength to strength, his journey has been fascinating thus far, yet his best is no doubt yet to come.
If you get the opportunity to catch him live do so while you can, cos this six-string slinger is on his way up!
Kris Barras (Guitars/Vocals),
Josiah J Manning (Keyboards),
Elliott Blackler (Bass)
Billy Hammett (Drums)
Review & Photography // Mark McGrogan