‘An Irishman on speed’ – that’s just one of the phrases used to describe the Northern Irish singer, songwriter, producer and guitarist, Simon McBride.
Described as the successor to Irish guitar legends such as Rory Gallagher and Northern Ireland’s Gary Moore, fellow Ulsterman McBride has come a long way from playing British Heavy Metal with Sweet Savage.
Now an established Blues Rock artist, his latest tour will criss-cross the country and has come from Belfast to play just north of Manchester, in Bury.
The gig so far has been characterised by strong, smooth vocals and finger-tripping guitar solos, but now McBride is replacing the screaming electric guitar with an acoustic.
The jaunty base and insistent drum beat die away and McBride is left alone on stage. The small but captivated crowd stills in expectation.
He begins to talk about recording an album, and how he had just one song left that he wanted to write, and only a riff that Paul Reed Smith described as sounding like ‘an Irishman on speed’.
He was right, but when McBride plays the song, the riff is slower and a babbling brook of a song emerges, with deep, strong vocals driving it forward.
The earlier battles between vocals and guitar are forgotten as an unusual love story is spun out before the entranced audience, about a rock and a storm.
The second half of the gig leaves other-worldly guitar distortion behind as McBride begins to cry out the melody of No Room to Breathe on his guitar.
With slide guitar and a husky voice, there is a nod to Chris Rea as the gig continues.
With four albums under his belt, including one live album, and a reputation as a guitar player begun aged fifteen when he won Guitarist’s Young Guitarist of the Year Award, you would expect McBride to be able to play in a variety of styles and he proved it here.
He blurs the line between blues and rock until you understand that this is what gave his latest album, Crossing the Line, its name.
When the first wall of sound hits, it is with the marching drum of an army, then the cries of a mystical creature and finally the punchy chords of Dead Man Walking, apparently unplanned and played on request.
With catchy songs, strong guitar solos and memorable lyrics, the true mystery of this gig is not whether it is blues or rock, but rather why the crowd isn’t larger.
Image courtesy of Chris P Jobling, via Flickr, with thanks.