Henrik Freischlader and Billy Walton@ The 100 Club

5 stars (out of 5)

2

 

Henrik Freischlader 290113 (Photo by Allan Mckay)

 

Billy Walton 290113 (Photo by Allan McKay)

Oxford Street on a wet Tuesday night in January can be a really miserable place, but not if you’re on your way to see The Billy Walton Band and the Henrik

Freischlader Band at the 100 Club, which is exactly what I was doing last Tuesday.  Both bands did the Skegness Butlins Blues festival last weekend before setting off on their UK tours.  Henrik is touring in support of his latest album “House in the Woods” and Billy is touring because the band love playing here and they have a lot of fanatical supporters in the UK.  The Stuart James Band was also on the bill as openers, so, three bands for a tenner in central London; you can’t argue with that.

At this kind of gig, the headline/support distinction doesn’t really apply; each band has its own following and they generally respect the work of the other bands on the bill.  I’m not saying there’s no tribalism, but there is a huge amount of mutual respect between the bands which is reflected in the attitudes of their followers.  Everyone came to hear good music and they weren’t disappointed.

The Billy Walton Band played a much, much shorter set than they would play as headliners and focussed on the latest album, “Crank it Up!”.  They packed in all of the highlights of a headline set into 45 minutes which featured Billy’s wonderful playing and showmanship and the improvisational interplay between Billy’s guitar and Richie Taz’s sax over the rock-solid rhythm section of William Paris and John D’Angelo.  If you’re looking for highlights, I’d go with “Deal with the Devil”, “The Deal went Down” and “Hot Blues” from the album and the inevitable show-stopping “Cannonball”.  I may be biased, but you really should make the effort to see these guys.

If you want a bit of background on the Henrik Freischlader Band, there’s a review of “House in the Woods” here.  Like the Billy Walton setup, this is a classic 70s power trio with an added twist.  In this case it’s the smoky Hammond sound of Moritz Fuhrhop which fills out the sound while Henrik plays his riffs and fills and solos. Again, the rhythm section of Bjorn Kruger (drums) and Theofilos Fotiadis provided a solid foundation for the creativity of the 2 lead players.  Henrik, like his hero Gary Moore, is equally impressive playing heavy riff-based songs and the slower ballads but he still has another weapon in the locker; he has a powerful, lived-in and careworn, voice which delivers both the rockers and the slower songs perfectly.  The band is tight and convincing in both styles and also sounds great with funkier and reggae-tinged material.

The set was dominated, unsurprisingly, by material from the new album (which is very, very good) and “Nowhere to Go”, “1999”, “House in the Woods” and “Breaking my Heart Again” all

sound stunning live; we even had a cover of “Come Together” thrown in for good measure.  There was a minor glitch with the bass sound during Henrik’s set, but it didn’t detract from a powerful live performance from two dynamic bands.

If Henrik and the band are wondering why the audience were leaving halfway through their set, it puzzled me as well.  Transport out of central London isn’t great late at night, but I really don’t understand an audience leaving at 10:30 when a headline band is absolutely on fire.  Anyway, I was there with Plus One until the end and it was a great night; two superb bands with incredible guitarists and great songs.  It doesn’t get a lot better than that.