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Monday 2 July 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Oli Brown (Live Review By Paul H)

The Oli Brown Band, The Globe

Ten years ago, the blues world took notice of the debut album by a certain Oliver Brown. The guitarist and singer, born in Norfolk, demonstrated a rare maturity and quality for one so young. Open Road was crammed full of heartfelt blues and rock music. Brown followed this up with two further solo albums, the sophomore and award-winning Heads I Win Tails You Lose in 2010, when he also made his Glastonbury debut, and 2012’s Here I Am. Brown has of course, sharpened his rock claws with Musipedia favourites RavenEye, a superb hard rocking trio whose debut album Nova and live performances are both well worth a listen. Ten years on from Open Road, and Brown is back on the road, performing his solo material which included a first solo date in Cardiff for six years.

A very warm night in South Wales saw a sparse crowd of no more than 60 people turn up at The Globe as Oli and crew hit date number three of the UK tour. With no organised support band, it was left to RavenEye bassist Aaron Spiers (6) (who also performed bass duties for TOBB) to warm up the already slightly overheating audience with 30 minutes of acoustic numbers. Playing a combination of covers and original compositions, Spiers is a talented singer and can demonstrate sufficient prowess on the acoustic guitar to be entertaining too. Covers included tracks from RavenEye, The Black Keys and Dolly Parton, whilst his own tunes held their own. His between song patter was balanced and he radiates a real warmth and passion about his music.

Oli Brown (8) hit the stage with no backing music, just tuned up and alongside drummer Wayne Proctor and Spiers, now on more familiar bass duties, launched into a set of over and hour and a half. The first thing you notice is that when playing blues, Brown is much more reserved, demonstrating a respect for the genre. No diving around the stage, walking through the crowd on Spiers’ shoulders, as is routine at a RavenEye gig. No, this was an evening where the music did the talking and he played through a series of tracks from his solo releases, including a lovely Speechless, alongside covers of some of those influential artists who helped shape his career. Watching Brown lovingly deliver his craft is mesmeric; his fluidity and natural ability allowing the music to flow whilst his dexterity was superb as he peeled off solo after solo, both hard and fast and slow and measured. The small crowd responded enthusiastically, whilst Brown seemed genuinely surprised when he talked about RavenEye and received a huge cheer.

The man is humble. Hell, RavenEye supported Kiss throughout Europe last year. No mean feat. As the well-paced set concluded, with opportunity for Spiers and Proctor to show their qualities as well, I reflected on how wrong it is that a superb guitarist who plays magical music receives so little attention, when generic rubbish fills the Principality Stadium for four nights in a row. Something is very wrong with the musical tastes of this nation but in some ways that is what makes rock music so special. Brown is a fantastic musician with a stunning voice, and backed by two talented guys, this was a night which was well worth making the effort for. And next time, so should you.

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