Federal Charm @ The Borderline 12/11/13

5 stars (out of 5)

1

Federal Charm coverThe first time I saw Federal Charm, they were supporting Southside Johnny (I know, you’re shocked that I was at a Southside Johnny gig) in Bury St Edmunds six months ago.  I was gobsmacked on that night by their playing and confidence but I wanted to see the band play live again before writing a review.  Since then, the band have released their first album (and very good it is too) and they’ve been playing shows across the UK.  The current tour is a blues/rock package with Laurence Jones and Mitch Laddie.  I’d love to tell you about Laurence and Mitch, but I could only stay for the Federal Charm set; next time, guys.

Federal Charm are Nick Bowden (vocals/guitar), Paul Bowe (guitar), L D Morawski (bass) and Danny Rigg (drums) and they’re from Stockport.  It’s pretty much the standard rock band line-up with the added bonus that the quality of Nick Bowden’s playing allows the band to drop in a bit of twin lead guitar work to the mix.  The relatively short set focuses mainly on the album, ripping through the big riffs of “I’m not Gonna Beg”, “There’s a Light”, “No Money Down”, and “Tell your Friends” before slowing things down with their stunning version of “Reconsider”, giving Paul Bowe the chance to let rip with blues, rock, and funk/rock solos.

So how do you follow the big showpiece song?  You speed things up and get some audience participation as well, and if they don’t know your songs well enough then you play something that they do know, the Golden Earring classic, “Radar Love” and it works perfectly as a lead-in to the dirty riff of “Reaction”.  Throw in a couple of non-album songs as well and you’ve got a perfectly-paced set of twenty-first century blues rock.

Federal Charm have been together less than three years, but they play with the assurance of seasoned and honed rockers.  The rhythm section is rock solid as the band move through changes in tempo and style within songs (particularly “Reconsider”) and Nick Bowden and Paul Bowe are charismatic and energetic frontmen.  The two guitars are used together in different ways ranging from straightforward rhythm or riff and lead guitar to more complicated twin guitar stylings with nods to The Stones and Thin Lizzy.  It’s not difficult to pick out the influences, but they’re put together with such style that the end result is something that’s pure Federal Charm.

As the opening band in a three band package in London on a Tuesday night, you might expect to struggle, but Federal Charm ripped into their set as if they were playing a sellout gig at the O2, and that attitude made them a lot of friends on the night.  There are a couple of things that make this band stand out. The first is that Paul Bowe is a very, very good player and he always looks like he’s having the best time ever.  The other is that when you watch Nick Bowden sing, you have to ask where that incredible rock voice comes from, and he doesn’t even make it look difficult.

If you’re into blues, rock, great guitar playing, great singing or any combination of the above, you really should get out and see these guys at any of these gigs.