Mr Kyps, Poole

Eric Gales

Mr Kyps continued their policy of booking the occasional American guitarist, with the appearance of Eric Gales on Sunday night. He follows a distinguished lineage that has included Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Walter Trout, Eric Sardinas and Philip Sayce over the years. Gales is one of those cack-handed guitarists that confounds the hell out of me, a right handed plucker, by playing a right handed guitar, left handed and upside down, a club that is not as exclusive as you might think as Albert King, Otis Rush, Bobby Womack and Dick Dale were all members. Naturally right-handed, he first picked up the instrument at the age of four and got his big break at sixteen, when he was spotted at a Battle of the Bands contest playing in a combo with his brothers Eugene and Manuel, a.k.a Little Jimmy King, who taught him their unorthodox technique as they were both lefties. He released his first album “The Eric Gales Band” in 1991 and has since put out over a dozen titles with, “Middle of the Road” being the latest. Tonight we had the privilege of seeing how this master of the Stratocaster from Memphis Tennessee, stacked up against the opposition and boy, were we in for a treat.

His band of bass player Cody Wright (probably the best bassist I have ever seen at Kyps), drummer Nick Hayes and percussionist / wife Ladonna Gales took to the stage for a warm up instrumental jam, before Eric walked on to an enthusiastic reception from a crowd of around one hundred and fifty expectant people. He proceeded to join in, hammering out choppy, rhythmic chords for a couple of minutes before bringing the tune to a close. A good curtain raiser, but we still weren’t sure what this guy had to offer in the way of string bending, trickery. I must just mention before continuing, that Eric asked the crowd to acknowledge the people that died in the Manchester bombing by respecting a minute’s silence, which was observed impeccably. We must remember that these cowardly attacks were targeted at young people on a night out enjoying a live gig, not just at the Manchester Arena, but also eighteen months earlier at the Bataclan in Paris. This is something I and all the people who come to this website have enjoyed and taken for granted over the years and to think that we are now targets sickens me, especially when it’s children, so thanks Eric for your heartfelt words.

Eric Gales

And so, on with the show and this is where we get into the meat and potatoes of what this guy is all about. He may be cast as a blues player, but in truth, his style spans jazz, hip-hop, rock and funk which he displayed nicely on his second number, “Make it There”, taken from his 2010 album “Relentless”. With its chugging groove providing a funky bedrock, Eric concocted the first of many blistering solos, that takes his songs to a whole other level with torrents of fiery pyrotechnics burning up the fret board. The next two songs, “Change in Me (The Rebirth)”, written in the aftermath of his drug addiction, prison time and rehab and “Boogie Man”, a Leon Russell and Chuck Blackwell cover recorded by one of his heroes Freddie King, were taken from his latest release, “Middle of the Road”. “Baby Please Don’t Let Me Down” made its debut in the set list tonight, as it was only written a couple of days beforehand, under the influence of Buddy Guy. “Sea of Bad Blood”, from 2011’s ‘Transformation’ gave the youthful bassist, Cody Wright plenty of scope to show off his exceptional talents, before Eric returned to claim it was his turn by riffing over Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. Tonight, “Mr Sipp”, a vamp over the “Smokestack Lightning” riff was renamed Mr Kyp, in honour of our host and “Swamp”, the last track on his latest offering, darn near took the roof off, as it built in intensity driven on by Mrs Gales wild tambourine battering. To close, the band launched into Jimi’s “Voodoo Chile”, not a slavish facsimile, which is usually severed up in these circumstances, but a completely different arrangement incorporating snatches of Beethoven’s “Für Elise”, Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’, yeah, really. You have to admire Eric, he’s not short on confidence as he big’s himself up (tongue in cheek), but there again, he has the talent to back it up with his unconventional, blistering guitar style, soulful voice and funny, in-between song musings, like most Americans, he knows the value of giving 100% and putting on a show. When he says, “While I’m sat backstage cooling off, I want to hear you yelling one more, one more”, of course we comply, it would be rude not to. The band return to serve up, “Pickin’ and Grinnin’”, a speed of light duel between bass and guitar complete with Eric pulling out all the stops and playing the guitar behind his head, à la Hendrix, it’s the nearest you’re gonna get to seeing Jaco Pastorious and Jimi sharing a stage in this day and age, stunning!

Back in May 2005, exactly twelve years to the month, a lucky few of us had a Bonamassa moment, when Joe came to Kyps and blew us all away. Unsurprisingly four years later he was headlining the Royal Albert Hall with Eric Clapton as a guest. Dare I say it, Eric Gales had much the same impact on Sunday, at forty two his chance of following Joe’s career path may have past, but you never know. Tirelessly gigging the UK was the making of Bonamassa, and it’s not past the realms of impossibility that if Eric builds on his British debut with further tours, his name will also become known to the masses and not just the lucky few in the know. A good start to achieving that goal came from Eric himself, when he announced that he would be returning later in the year, see you down the front.

Support came from the Backwater Roll Blues Band, a sextet from Southampton that warmed up the crowd nicely with a set of raunchy blues standards.

Eric Gales

Set List
Instrumental Intro
Make it There
Change in Me (The Rebirth)
Boogie Man
Baby Please Don’t Let Me Down
Sea of Bad Blood / Bass Solo / Don’t Fear the Reaper
Mr Sipp
Voodoo Chile / Fleur De Lis / Kashmir / Back in Black / Voodoo Chile
Pickin’ and Grinnin’


Words & Pictures by John Cherry

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