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St Patricks Day is a blues-rock celebration with Simon McBride

The world has learned to love a party with the Irish, so St Patrick’s Day has turned into a global event. Edinburgh is no different tonight, and I pass hordes of drunk people in the city’s Cowgate queuing to get into bars that are buzzing. One has Abba blaring out, and the mostly local party people don’t seem worried that the Guinness they’re holding is the most Irish thing about their whole evening.

Simon McBride. Bannermans Edinburgh, 17 March 2022

Words: Ian Sutherland

Photography: Mark Holloway

Along the road in Bannermans Rock And Whiskey Bar, things are more low key at first. But up on stage are three talented men from the Emerald Isle doing what generations of talented musicians from the North and South of their country have done, showcasing their talent around the world to anyone who’ll listen.

Simon McBride, Bannermans.
Simon McBride, Bannermans. Photo: Mark Holloway

Simon McBride is a veteran guitar player and vocalist who has worked with many big names and put out some cracking albums under his own moniker. It’s been a decade since the last full-length release Crossing The Line, though, so with that in mind, plus the frustrations of lockdown, he and his two bandmates, Dave Marks on bass and Marty McCloskey on drums, are just glad to get to play to an audience again.

I’ve seen this modern Belfast boy before, and I know what to expect, superb guitar work, a talented and super solid rhythm section and some scintillating blues-rock, full of dynamics, more Gary Moore than John Lee Hooker.

Simon McBride, Bannermans.
Dave Marks. Photo: Mark Holloway

Life is always full of surprises, and there was a lot in this fabulous 100-minute set that I wasn’t expecting.

I didn’t expect a cover of Bryan Adams Kids Wanna Rock, which had an almost Ramones edge to it, but with some smooth, jazzy guitar squeezed in. I wasn’t expecting a cover of Gimme Something Good from Ryan Adams to be such a smouldering, intense number. I wasn’t expecting a Kinks cover, I Gotta Move, to be done with such a heavy, twisting riff.

Later in the set, I wasn’t expecting a snatch of Smoke On The Water to be thrown in for fun.

Simon McBride, Bannermans.
Marty McCloskey. Photo: Mark Holloway

In among all the fun covers and added comedy skits between the trio on stage, we got a whole bunch of quality originals too. The catchy, upbeat rock of High Stakes and the brooding stomp of title track The Fighter from his forthcoming new album (released 27 May, McBride said many times with a cheeky smile) were mightily impressive.

Old favourites from the superb Crossing The Line like the sweeping twists and turns of Heartbreaker and the cheery singalong grooves of Don’t Be A Fool were welcomed with open arms by an audience who warmed up slowly but ended up in full-throated St Patrick’s Day spirits.

Simon McBride, Bannermans.
Simon McBride. Photo: Mark Holloway

An encore of Hendrix’s Power Of Soul left everyone present with a suitable memory of grooving rhythms, cheery smiles, and searing guitar runs, which perfectly summed up the evening.

I’d spend every St Patrick’s Day in the company of this trio of charismatic musicians. Let’s make it an annual event.

Simon McBride, Bannermans.
Simon McBride, Bannermans. Photo: Mark Holloway
Simon McBride, Bannermans.
Simon McBride, Bannermans. Photo: Mark Holloway

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