Aiming to cover ninety years of Blues in sixty minutes is a mightily ambitious endeavour. Ultimately, while the band members' enthusiasm and love for the genre was never in doubt throughout the evening's show, their execution of Blues' various incarnations was somewhat patchy in places and their endeavour perhaps a little over ambitious.
The evening started nicely, the band's lead singer, Felipe Schrieberg seated, fingerpicking Robert Johnson's Love in Vain as the audience entered, beginning to sing only when the audience was seated and settled.
The evening started nicely, the band's lead singer, Felipe Schrieberg seated, fingerpicking Robert Johnson's Love in Vain as the audience entered, beginning to sing only when the audience was seated and settled. This languid poise was, however, not to last. Much of the rest of the evening's performance being a tad frenetic and jittery, both in the band's performance and Schrieberg's between-song linkages. These linkages were somewhat inchoate and superficial, seeming to be more a catalyst for playing a particular song than a solidly informative attempt to be "telling the stories of the artists that have helped define today’s modern music", to quote from the band's own site.
Perhaps this nerviness and tendency to rock more than they rolled stemmed from the band's having a dep guitarist for the night. One of the finer moments was a stripped-down three-piece segment, Nicole Smit singing St Louis Blues accompanied only by Andy Britton on nicely fluid piano and Cameron Duncan-Thomson on Harmon-muted trumpet (emulating King Oliver's playing). This contrasted with more frenzied full-band playing on the likes of the closer, Got My Mojo Working, taken a trifle too frantically and lacking the swing of the Chicago Blues bands of the past, with the likes of Freddy Below drumming lightly, with swinging flair.
It seems somewhat churlish to criticise a band so visibly youthful for lacking the poise of the grizzled veteran Bluesers they're celebrating, but in that this is pitched as a professional show it seems appropriate to treat it as such. I celebrate the band's intent and enthusiasm and I feel sure some will go on to be fine players, with more experience under their belts. Indeed, the missing member - Jed Potts - is already a very fine, swinging guitarist, in the style of Junior Watson and his ilk. For now, though, this show seems more like an enthusiastic music college project than a full-priced Fringe production. That said, the lack of showboating and vying for individual attention of the performers - in preference for an ensemble feel - is refreshing.