Weather forecast for Eric Gales in York, Sunday the 5th June: The evening will see an incoming Galesforce of Blues, R&B and Funk.
Eric Gales, Dom Martin
The Crescent, York – 5 June 2022
Words: Sid Kissinger
Photography: Simon Anley
The Crescent in York is not the largest of venues and comes with all the atmosphere of a real rock shack. The venue was full, right from the word go, with a stamp on your hand as a ticket, sticky floor, and increasingly warm room of excited fans – this was gonna be a ‘proper gig’ you sensed.
Something which immediately stood out was the demographic of the crowd. It was a real mixture of ages and backgrounds, which is not always the case in a city like York, and it really reflects on how diverse Eric’s fans are, all contributing to a truly fabulous evening.
First out on the intimate stage was Dom Martin, an Irish guitarist with a number of blues awards already in the bag for 2022. His music and singing felt straight from a tequila-soaked southern USA afternoon. His emerald guitar is gorgeous, and his setup of two amps (vox and fender) alongside numerous pedals shows how much Dom cares about his equipment and sound.
This can make all the difference, and his sound and playing ability was exquisite straight from the off, starting with a riff immediately reminding you of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Scuttle Buttle song. Backed by a bass player who showed real groove and was high enough in the mix to be more than just a background bass player and a drummer who kept the engine ticking over.
Dom is clearly a capable player, and the crowd really appreciated the band’s abilities and songs. His serious blues face couldn’t help but crack into a genuine smile at the end of each song when hearing the crowd applaud and shout their appreciation. “This is genuinely amazing, guys,” he professes. “Normally, I play to one guy at the bar and his blind dog.”
Being back in live music after a tricky two pandemic years was an emotional moment for both bands, who both mentioned how much it had affected them and how amazing it was to be back in front of a live crowd, doing what they love best.
Dom finished his set with another medley and, this time, jumped into the crowd to let audience members have a go at strumming the riff. This went down well, and he spent some time headbanging with the enthusiastic crowd – a real rockstar ending to a proficient set. It would be no surprise to see him headlining tours next time round.
After a short interlude, we’re onto the headliner: Eric Gales. And wow, just wow, what a way to start a gig. You have the band come on, who look ready to partake in the latest hip-hop rap battle: gold chains (and teeth!), neck tattoos, baseball caps (with the sticker left on of course), and a bass player with a beanie hat and a full-on mask.
The music starts with more of an introduction noise and builds up, tweaking on the amps, turning things up – you could feel your whole body shake from the speakers.
Then suddenly, it breaks, and Eric plays some classical style music on his new Epiphone 335, which he plays upside down. “What is going on?” you might be wondering before being welcomed to ‘the mind of Eric Gales, and off they rip into a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning.
The band are a five-piece, with bass, drums, and synth, Eric on guitar and his wife Ladonna on a whole paraphernalia of percussion, which really adds that sprinkling of magic throughout the songs.
The band is incredibly tight, clearly having toured and played together a while now, and Eric rides on top of this both vocally and with his guitar, bringing all the swagger, groove and freedom to a truly unique and wonderful show. He played two guitars throughout the show, running it through his signature “raw dawg” DV mark amp and speaker.
Although labelled as a blues artist, the songs pack plenty of R&B and funk alongside, making for a real mix of sounds which doesn’t compare to any other band out there. The fact that Eric plays the guitar upside down means that his sound is naturally different, attacking chords with downstrokes means the notes go high to low, for example, and solo runs and chord shapes are also less orthodox as some will be easier (or harder) with this setup.
There is an initial image of the whole upside-down guitar being really uncomfortable to play, and yet Eric makes it look so easy. His ability to not only play with phenomenal speed, sensitive touch or crunchy funk, but all done with real soul, groove and feeling. There’s no surprise that the July 2022 edition of Guitarist magazine has called him “the best player in the world right now.”
The second song, You Don’t Know The Blues, is straight from his new Crown album and had the crowd immediately singing along with the lines, although afterwards, he admits he “never had the crowd sing along before on that one, but that worked well.”
The proximity to the artist and the volume of sound and clear class on show made this the intimate and soulful gig it was. You know a gig is going well around here when the crowd feel impassioned to chant “Yorkshire, Yorkshire,” and it is that ‘live’ factor which takes this to the next level. The album recording is good, sure, but you have to see this guy live to really appreciate and experience what he’s doing.
Eric was able to chat with the fans a mere foot in front of him, both cracking jokes about the English accent as well as what it means to be playing live again after the pandemic, and how important it is for him to speak his voice and messages of racism he wants to share with the world in his latest material.
For example, the acapella start of The Storm with the lyrics “How can you love what I do, but hate who I am?”.
Eric works the crowd well with all that experience and personalises lyrics to mention the UK or York to cheers from the crowd, which Bruce Springsteen has famously proven success with. The crowd singing the main phrase of My Own Best Friend together whilst the band cuts out was another passionate moment of the show which contributed to the bonding between band and audience.
“It means the world to us to share positive energies and have a good time,” Gales announces, “we had different races and different religions and had no issues.”
And rightly so – music unites all.
1. Maxwell Shuffle/Moby Dick/Funky
2. Dixie Black Hand
3. Blues on the Bay
5. 12 Guage
6. Laundromat/Morning Sun/What’s Going On
1. Smokestack Lightning
2. You Don’t Know the Blues
4. The Storm
5. Put That Back
6. Stand Up
7. Take Me Just as I Am
8. My Own Best Friend
9. Praise Worship
10. Sea of Bad Blood
11. Too Close to the Fire
12. I Want my Crown