Jared James Nichols
The Waterfront, Norwich, UK
Review by Paul Monkhouse
Jared James Nichols has built up a solid reputation as one of the leading lights in modern blues rock, his firey gumbo of influences winning the hearts of audiences during tours with Glenn Hughes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, UFO, Saxon, Blue Oyster Cult and ZZ Top amongst others. It speaks a lot about the guitarist that he not only held his own against such legendary artists but gave them all a run for their money and on many nights blew away the headliners. His latest tour of the UK is part of a diverse triple band line-up that also includes Toby Jepson’s 70’s style hard rocking Wayward Sons and the topped-billed game-changers Living Colour. Despite the huge talent on show, Nichols opening set was the one that left the most lasting impression and brought the largest number of converts, all of whom stunned by the power of this three-piece.
Despite the early start time, a sizeable crowd was already pushing against the barrier as a siren rang out and Nichols strolled onto the stage, ripping into opening song ‘Last Chance’. This was rock ‘n’ roll as dirty and loud as you could have wished for, the muscular playing reminiscent of Cream at their most forceful but with an edge that spoke of years spent playing in rough bars all over small towns in the States. There was a real ferocity here that screamed to be let loose, all whilst being totally controlled by a band who knew exactly what they were doing. This juxtaposition of the feral and the crafted in their performance was such a fine balance that it equally thrilled and amazed, the adrenaline rush of being strapped into a turbocharged supercar driven by a Nascar champion.
‘Don’t Be Scared’ was a blistering display of heavy blues and saw Nichols flicking his guitar lead to slam and dance across the strings as he played the solo. This wasn’t the only extraordinary thing that struck about the performance as it was impossible not to marvel at how he played with such dexterity and heaviness without a pick, his right hand wrenching and dancing on the frets bereft of a plectrum to take the strain across the tight wound steel strings of his beloved Les Paul. The funky ‘Honey Forgive Me’ dripped with a raw passion and ‘End of Time’ rode along with a loping rhythm whilst conjuring a sound that brought to mind something akin to Jimi Hendrix jamming with Led Zeppelin.
The heads-down boogie of ‘Baby Can You Feel It’ really swung as bass player Ronnie Elvis James and drummer Dennis Holms were watertight, James a study in trucker cool whilst Holms was a mass of flying blonde hair. Nichols himself cuts an imposing figure, standing well over six feet tall and all muscles, tattoos and hair and it’s one of these tattoos that catches the eye: a curled snake on his left arm. Whilst a first glance looking like the one Metallica had on the cover of the ‘Black Album’, this was actually part of the Gadsden Flag, depicting a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike and such it was with the jabs and controlled ferocity of his playing on new single ‘Nails in the Coffin’. The track opened to the sound of rolling thunder and rain and continued in this vein, a brooding and atmospheric track full of dread and dark power, providing an appetite whetting taster of things to come.
‘Hardwired’ may have shared a title with the San Francisco thrash giants but this was purely titular as the track came over as the love child of Whitesnake and Ted Nugent, all lascivious guitar work and macho strutting but none the worse for either. Closing the set was a staggering cover of Mountain’s classic ‘Mississippi Queen’, replete with the greatest cowbell playing in rock outside of ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ and a freshness that captured the vitality of the original but turned up several notches. Closing with such a well-known and much-loved song was a gamble but the fact that their own material can stand shoulder to shoulder and not feel out of place with it speaks volumes. The future, seemingly, belongs to him. All hail the new King of Blues Rock.
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