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Saturday, 14 April 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Kris Barras & Blackwater Conspiracy

Kris Barras & Blackwater Conspiracy, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

On the evening of Wrestlemania we were getting ready for a knockout night of another kind, in the darkness of Fuel Rock Club, cage fighter turned next big thing in blues rock Kris Barras was just about to take to the stage to packed house. However before this it’s worth backpedalling a little to the start of night, we’d arrived early as the gig was promoted by our good friends at Fate Entertainment so we managed to grab some pre show conversation (and Guinness) with both bands, where we discovered that Irish band Blackwater Conspiracy had eaten at Toby Carvery on every date of the tour so far (it’s all glamour ladies and gentleman). With the soundcheck out of the way and Blackwater Conspiracy posing for a photo shoot with us (available soon) it was time for the show to begin and the room filled up pretty quickly as the lights went down and there was anticipation in the air.

For me especially it served as an opportunity to see one act that is going to be stratospheric by next year and to see another who I have been following since their inception as a Classic Rock supported band called Million Dollar Reload. At this time they were signed to the now defunct Powerage records but with new members joining they changed into the band that were in front of us now, with the name change came the new Delta Blues influenced sounds of The Stones and The Black Crowes as they morphed into the fully developed band they are now. I highly rated Blackwater Conspiracy’s (8) debut album to see tracks from that record with bluesy numbers like Waitin’ On Hollywood and Penny For Your Dirty Mind mingling with the glistening grooves of ’85 Rockstar. With Phil Conalane’s rough vocal style and his Keef-like rhythm playing, he leads the band in the jangling blues rocking with the effortless of a rock n roll scoundrel. The band was giving it everything and from the audible reaction and the amount of merch shifted after their set I’d say they more than won over those who weren’t as familiar with them as me.

So back to the beginning of the review and with little time to get a refill due to the expanse of bodies in the small room, the heat was rising and the audience waited with baited breath as Kris, Elliott, Will and Josiah walked on the stage, Kris especially had the swagger of a man who’s been doing this his entire life, his tattooed figure cut a swathe at the front of the stage his Telecaster slung around his neck like a weapon and as the anticipation reached fever pitch the headliner began with some thick, tasty blues rock riffs filling Fuel with material that has seen Kris Barras (9) compared to Joe Bonamassa. As he made his way through an hour material, most of which came from his new album The Divine And The Dirty, he played the guitar with a fire rarely seen by artists that are so early in their career, screaming, soulful solos were met with filthy riffs and a voice that was huskier and rawer than normal (due to a cold) but it added to the blistering performance, Barras was imperious on the stage the obvious focal point of the entire evening as the T-Shirt wearing partisan audience hung on every single riff and solo.

Keeping the tempo at a maximum the temperature inside the room increased with every single song and the voices grew louder as the songs were recognised, Hail Mary got the biggest response, due to the radio play it receives on Planet Rock. The noise only dropped, quite rightly, for the heart wrenching Watching Over Me which is seriously affecting ballad on which Kris is at his most fragile vocally. The set was wrapped up with a storming run through of All Along The Watchtower which was neither a copy of the Hendrix version or the Dylan original but took from both for a unique take on a classic. After this the crowd were in rapturous applause as the band took their leave of the stage, an encore beckoned but the music was ramped up and the houselights turned on.

No encore to be seen, cue confusion and frustration from the band and management. Despite this little bit of disarray the rest of the evening ran smoothly. Both acts left a lasting impression, Blackwater Conspiracy are a band probably best enjoyed with an (Irish) whiskey and a roaring log fire while Kris Barras and his superb band is a smooth, disciplined unit led by a man bound for superstardom. Catch him as support to Beth Hart later this month and as the new frontman of supergroup Supersonic Blues Machine later this year. If you missed this then you missed one of those moments where you will be able to say “I was there” in the years to come.

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