Kris Barras Band @ Newcastle The Cluny, February 8 2019
Given a different roll of the dice Kris Barras could easily have been performing in Newcastle the following night – in front of thousands of screaming MMA fans at the city’s arena, taking centre stage in the Bellator event live on Channel Five.
But these are very different times for the multi-talented Devonian.
Instead, the former cage fighter checked into Tyneside 24 hours earlier and played a sell-out show in his guise of poster boy for the new wave of British blues rock. Tattooed guns bursting forth from a sleeveless tee, the singer songwriter looked every inch the mixed martial artist. And yet Barras has long since swapped kicks for licks. Nevertheless, good old-fashioned blood, sweat and tears remain common to both his past and the present.
Rocking out to capacity crowds hasn’t come easy to one of the most exciting new voices on the burgeoning blues scene. And yet, following a few false starts, Barras and his band has made rapid progress during the last two years backed by genre-leading label Mascot and a whole bunch of terrific tunes.
The quartet’s growth can be measured by their North East following alone: just a few months after supporting Joanne Shaw Taylor in Whitley Bay and packing them in to Trillians across town, the Kris Barras Band were promoted from the cosier Cluny 2 to the venue’s main room and sold every single ticket upstairs. Perhaps that arena show isn’t too far off, after all.
Barras appeared genuinely humbled as he wholeheartedly thanked the Geordie throng for massing behind his bullish blues. Showcasing a slew of biting new cuts from the as-yet unnamed follow-up to The Divine And Dirty – slated for release later this year – and going to work on a colossal cover of Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll, a band confirmed for the Rambin’ Man Fair main stage this summer looked every inch the stars in waiting.
Hail Mary, Watching Over Me and superlative set closer Lovers Or Losers evidenced just why it was the right decision for Barras to swap the cage for the stage and channel his relentless energy into fist-pumping anthems rather than brutal punches.
And who better to tour the UK with than a fellow bastion of the blues-soaked classic rock riff? Jack J Hutchinson has never set foot inside an MMA ring (at least not to our knowledge – his flowing locks and bushy beard would surely get snagged on the cage) but he’ll always fight for what he believes in. And right now he believes in a band that has a new album in the can and a new sense of urgency given the strength of the new material rolled out here.
Hutchinson, Felipe Amorim (drums) and Lazarus Michaelides (bass) are a terrifically tight trio and the meandering Peace Of Mind – think Cream mashed up with Black Country Communion – proved the best is yet to come for Burnley’s favourite son. Lucky Man, another new tune, lit up the room. But Hutchinson, like road buddy Barras, is no fortunate son. It’s hard graft and self-belief, rather than luck, that underpins the future of homegrown blues rock.
Images By Adam Kennedy