Making a swift return to Wolverhampton, but this time with his name on the ticket, was Tennessee powerhouse guitarist Jared James Nichols and his equally potent band. With a quality supporting cast in the shape of Dutch Psychedelic Soul Rockers DeWolff and the gritty groove of the homegrown Doomsday Outlaw, this promised to be quite an evening.
Jared James Nichols
KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton – 11 October 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: John Inglis
As the strains of The Bad Flowers’ Thunder Child faded, the band cranked up into the turbocharged shuffle of Easy Come Easy Go. Like ZZ Top, but with EHT applied, Jared’s fingers were already flaying along the fretboard.
With his physique, Jared positively dominates his Les Paul and cuts a striking figure before his jagged, ice-blue logo emblazoned across the rear screen.
The jig-inducing My Delusion preceded the band intros, where we discovered that bass player Louis Collins hails from Bournemouth, prior to things being taken down a notch with the slower, brooding Down The Drain. While not attempting to draw any comparisons, the chorus did have the percussive feel of Zep’s Babe I’m Going To Leave You.
Hard Wired had so much. From crushing riffs to delicate melodies, the wailing guitar is balanced by the menacing bass. The rhythm section was positively thunderous, the low frequencies emanating from the PA so perfectly balanced, filling the auditorium with their weighty resonance.
I would even go so far as to say that Louis and Ryan Rice on the drums are one of the most dynamic rhythm sections I have witnessed, and the whole trio is one of the most impelling.
Whilst tuning for the next song, Jared engaged with a section of the audience: “It’s a ’52 Gibson. It’s cranky, it hates me as it gets beaten up every day. It’s even survived a tornado. Had to put a new neck on it, though.”
Barely after the second anniversary of his untimely passing, the bluesy infectiousness of Threw Me To The Wolves was dedicated to the late Bad Flowers/Wolf Jaw Singer/Guitarist Tom Leighton. The solo was just so efficiently understated, subsequently soaring to a crescendo and then falling away into a pool of bluesy tranquillity.
As Tom’s Father, former bandmates, and so very many friends were in attendance, one could feel the emotion in the room at this point. The audience was totally respectful throughout the ultra-quiet passage before Jared introduced the familiar strains of Miss You, and the band brought it all home. A most worthy tribute to a sadly missed friend.
“Let’s kick some ass!” The set reignited with the grinding ferocity of Skin ‘N Bone and the galloping Bad Roots.
The rhythm section got their well-deserved moment in the spotlight during the danceable Honey Forgive Me. Ryan’s drum solo so perfectly synchronised with the groove of the number, while Jared even threw in a finishing flourish of Jessica.
Shadow Dancer, with its symphonic melody and arabesque solo, led into Good Time Girl. The strutty riff is so complementary to the chorus. A proper feel-good tune, with Louis making increasing use of the vast stage and matching the animation of his boss. Is there such a thing as lead bass?
“I recorded this one with Blues Traveller. You guys heard of Blues Traveller? No?! This story’s not going to go good. Anyway, this won us a Blues Grammy.”
The song in question was Keep Your Light On Mama, an exceedingly weighty gospel-tinged blues workout embellished by those trademark licks. At one point, Jared’s silhouette was quite the iconic image as he turned to face his Blackstar stack and struck the pose.
While said collaboration gained significant homeland acclaim, every artist may just have another defining song that endears them to particular audiences. To a fair proportion of British ones, Nails In The Coffin is Jared’s. An emotive yet anthemic, rousing, triumphant showstopper appearing here in its rightful place as the set closer.
Returning to the stage for the solitary encore, Jared introduces, “One of the best songs ever created, and it just so happens to be from this area.” Cue the distinctive howling and swooping soundscape of War Pigs.
Jared stamped his own authority on the song, providing it with a modern zest. He even performed a technique I had never previously witnessed, which was to sing “Satan laughing spreads his wings” directly into his pickup. It sure gave the line an eerie, more disturbing air.
Bringing a most uplifting evening to a close, he left the stage with a ”Let’s have a beer, let’s have a chat at the merch.”
Such was the atmosphere in the room this evening, the event felt more like Jared was jamming in front of a specially invited audience of dear friends.
Being such an amiable, big-hearted guy, the subsequent queue, according to a good friend, was “One of the longest he’s seen here” and only dispersed as the witching hour drew near.
Testimony enough to the appeal of the man, his music and the mood he had just created. Highly recommended.