GIG REVIEW: Doyle Bramhall II @ O2 Shepherd’s Bush 18/2/2014

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I’m more used to seeing Doyle Bramhall II in the role of Clapton’s right-hand man, carrying the bulk of Slowhand’s solo work and bringing his unique tone and feel to Clapton’s sets. This time, Bramhall himself is taking charge and sharing guitar duties with Rich Robinson of the recently disbanded Black Crowes. The contrast between Bramhall’s fuzzy, sixties-inspired tones and Robinson’s distinctly southern rock feel evoke sounds reminiscent of Clapton in the 1970s with Duane Allman, particularly thanks to the mixture of southern rock, Texas blues and gospel that recur throughout Bramhall’s original songs.

The set opened with three of Bramhall’s own songs, before including a mixture of old blues, Hendrix and Rich Robinson songs. The set serves as a good introduction to Bramhall’s music, and his songs are strong enough that he could fill a much longer set of purely his own material.

Ultimately, the songs serve to demonstrate the musicianship of the band, and what an excellent band it is. Serving both as Rich Robinson’s band (filling in the support slot) and as Bramhall’s band, playing two sets of considerable length with consistent energy, they really are a compelling ensemble. Again, the southern rock and blues pedigree is evident with former Tedeschi/Trucks Band members Matt Slocum and Ted Pecchio on keys and bass, respectively. Behind the drum kit is past Rich Robinson collaborator Joe Magistro, and all the musicians exude an air of comfort and confidence with each other, like old friends.

The show did have a general feeling of relaxation. Not necessarily in terms of the music (which varied in mood and tempo throughout the set) but in terms of stagecraft and the interactions between the band members themselves and the audience. Doyle Bramhall is a unique force of nature, with a feel and technique on the guitar that has obvious influences yet sounds unlike anyone else. His distinct voice was consistently on the money, but it’s when he and Robinson bounce lead lines back and forth that the individual and collective talents on the stage really shine. Doyle Bramhall II has truly secured his position as a guitar hero and it’s refreshing to see him playing his own songs, on his own terms.

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