The Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool - 19.5.22
By Tony Barnes
Chantel McGregor has long been one of my favourite artists since I first saw her live at this very venue four years ago. The multi award-winning singer songwriter and guitarist is one of the most exciting artists on the circuit so I have a particularly good feeling about tonight and the fact that the venue is packed to the rafters on a Thursday night is a clear indication that I am not alone in that feeling.
Chantel McGregor and the first thing that strikes me as she launches into the meaty Americana tinged ‘Southern Belle’ with its funky basslines and catchy chorus, is just how different this is to the last time I saw her on stage. In the intervening years Chantel McGregor has gone from being a shy, retiring Yorkshire lass with undeniable talent into a veritable force of nature, commanding the stage and blasting out some of the finest modern blues rock I have heard for an exceedingly long time. In a previous review I observed that going to a Chantel McGregor gig is like walking through a labyrinth because you never know what’s around the next corner. Well, the labyrinth just got bigger, more complex and much more interesting. From the intricate stop start arrangement and driving beats of ‘Your Fever’ to the classic heavy rock of ‘Killing Time’, from the spacey soulful rhythm & blues of ‘Burn Your Anger’ to the fuzz laden psychedelic prog of ‘April’ and the raw delta blues of ‘I’m No Good For You, she is on fire. Her scintillating solos are off the scale and her voice is equally impressive as it slides between gentle balladeering to strident rock power. She even throws in a work in progress with the beautifully restrained acoustic folky country blues of ‘Last Goodbye’, a brave move that shows her more sensitive side, delivered alone on stage whilst the band takes a well-earned breather. As befitting a performer of such high calibre, she has surrounded herself with equally brilliant musicians and the band creates a powerful, meaty and perfectly balanced and controlled sound.
I am sure, however, that those brilliant musicians will forgive me when I say that it is McGregor’s phenomenal guitars skills that lifts tonight’s’ show to stellar heights. It is almost impossible to choose a standout moment, such is the consistent excellence of the entire set. One moment does however speak for itself and that is the truly breath-taking extended solo in the second part of the beautifully epic ‘Eternal Dream’, a perfectly crafted rock song that starts with soporific smoothness, builds layer by layer into a driving rock anthem and explodes into a spine-tingling, hair-raising instrumental denouement. Her solo is almost unbelievably good and just when we think she has taken it to the ultimate crescendo she ups it another exhilarating level. Every so often a piece of music will create an intense emotional reaction in the listener purely because it is so bloody brilliant and that is exactly what ‘Eternal Dream’ does for everyone in the room as, when the song ends, there is a moment of awed crystal silence before the auditorium erupts into rapturous cheering and applause. In that moment of silence, I overhear someone behind whisper in reverent tones “I have not heard a guitarist as good as this in the last thirty or forty years.” A high accolade but one with which I fully concur.
In the past I have been accused of waxing lyrical at the drop of a hat but on this occasion, I think I am totally justified. Chantel McGregor must surely be one the best rock and blues guitarists in the world today and tonight it has been a delight, an honour and a privilege to be in the same room as such an immense talent.
Review by Tony Barnes
Shed Sessions – 23/05/20
Blues Matters - Colin Campbell
Since the Covid-19 lockdown, there have been many interesting ways appearing for musicians to earn and ply their trade. Most have taken to social media and there have even been some very successful online virtual festivals taking place. It appears that anyone with an acoustic guitar and an iPhone can put on a show and they are bringing great joy to their fans and keeping the music going.
This, I believe, is going to be the ‘new’ way forward when there are no live events as such. Some venues will sadly close if the situation continues, and really, social distancing in small venues may prove somewhat of a challenge when putting on a show. So, I thought as there are so many online shows about that it may be prudent to review some.
Without an audience in the room, performers have to go on live using these performances as rehearsals but more importantly to keep the connection with their music fans. Artists have also cottoned on to the prospect of using these sessions for revenue. There are virtual tip jars via PayPaland such for money transfers. Some even charge for these performances now as a matter of course. There is a lot of money being donated to various charities as well, so everyone wins overall. Politics of the situation aside I have decided to review some of these online concerts. This is the first one; hopefully, we will get back to having live concerts soon but in the meantime, I hope this is of help.
Chantel’s recent musical journeys have seen her move more towards the blues-rock genre. Recently she brought out “Bury’d Alive” a great live release that captures the essence of her live shows, showcasing the talents of both herself on lead vocals and guitar along with bassist Colin Sutton and drummer Thom Gardner.
They are a powerhouse trio, but what happens when you lose your safety net of fellow band members due to social distancing? Well, you go to your wooden shed at home, of course, and you ask your dad to come and help. Well, that’s Chantel’s way of keeping on bringing her music to her fans all around the world.
Here, she’s a solo singer and guitar player sitting in her shed playing the music that she loves. The one hour slot on Saturday seemed to go by quickly. Chantel was also in great humour, she can be self-deprecating on stage sometimes and have “blonde moments” as she would call them, but always the true professional. Here she mixes her own tunes that fans have asked for but the set was also peppered with covers of other artists.
She began with her own tune, Southern Belle, from her, Lose Control release, it had a real bluesy sound with clear and succinct vocals and a brilliant finish. Next, she went into a rendition of her own, Like No Other, sung with passion and clear lyrics. Her stripped back version of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon was also delivered with that same style. Her father put in a few appearances too in differing guises such as a rabbit and a sheepdog to add to the entertainment value.
This did not detract from Chantel’s performance and her conversations with her father just added to the human connection and kind of, substituted for a physical audience. The performance leaned towards Americana in the main with an interpretation of John Prime’s Angel Of Montgomery being a particular highlight. Help Me, from her debut release, was sung beautifully. Fire And Rain a James Taylor number showed her soft passionate side, before getting rootsy on Bonnie Raitt’s Too Long At The Fair.
In between the songs, there was a lot of conversation and chat and general ‘bonkers’ times that were very funny, she also gave shout outs for birthdays! Chantel enjoys this format herself, I think she would have found it boring just singing and playing the guitar for a full hour. Attendees of this event could write their comments whilst Chantel played and in the main, they were extremely positive and encouraging with lots of emoji of applause etc.
The final tune was a reggae styled acoustic version of D’yer Mak’er, a Led Zeppelin cover which exhibited some fiery guitar licks. Her father found a link to applause on his mobile phone and this was the cue to finish the concert.
Overall it was a most enjoyable concert, there was a good mixture of tunes and balanced sound and acoustics in “the shed”. This was a professional performance by a very confident singer-songwriter who can easily play solo without any problems and the bonus is you get an intimate performance every time. This format gives the viewer a front seat view and you can listen without any distractions from other people. This can also be watched as a group on social media, making it a fun night in. Will live streaming music be as popular as being in a venue, it’s hard to tell? For the moment though it is a very good substitute and I recommend you try to catch some shows when you can.
Chantel says – “So we’re all in lockdown, all over the world due to Covid-19. When all the shows got postponed, I was itching to play and just thought it might be fun to play in everyone’s living room (well, my shed anyway) and I’ve done this every Saturday since!! It’s all very live, impromptu, daft comments etc. But hopefully, it’ll brighten someones day in lockdown!”
Stockton Arc - 2.10.19
National Rock Review - Adam Kennedy
Now if Chantel McGregor had chosen to record her new live album in tonight’s venue – the ARC in Stockton, maybe the title wouldn’t have been as catchy as Bury’d Alive. It might have turned out something like Live-Stock or Stockton, Aitken and Waterman – who knows, but I digress. Tonight’s show on Teesside marks McGregor’s first appearance in Stockton since 2015.
It’s fair to say that over the years Chantel McGregor’s sound has developed and matured. Starting with her blues-based roots, through to the hard rock influences of her last solo album. Although McGregor’s recent progressive rock compositions have been simply astonishing. No matter which direction she moves into musically, the versatile artist can turn her hand to anything and do it well.
This evening’s show gets underway with some of McGregor’s faster tracks with the likes of Take The Power, Killing Time and Your Fever all featuring before Chantel switches gear with the ethereal Eternal Dream. The latter of which being one of the many standout tracks of the set.
Asides from the fully electrified numbers in the setlist, a short acoustic segment follows that includes both a beautiful airing of Anaesthetise and a majestic rendition of Inconsolable. The latter of which meanders between acoustic and electric guitar, as well as taking the song through shades of darkness and light. This epic track is one of McGregor’s finest compositions to date.
Chantel’s prog-rock tracks by her admittance are hardly ‘little songs’ when they are all ten minutes long, but who would want to truncate such beautiful pieces of music. New track April, which is presently only available on Chantel’s live album, also sits perfectly in this category.
Chantel McGregor has always had great chemistry with her bandmates. And in particular, her onstage banter with bass player Colin Sutton is as witty as ever. It’s of no surprise that he still hasn’t been given a microphone to this point.
Racing towards the finish line, it’s all about the rockier side of Chantel’s repertoire with a whole raft of tracks from her last studio album. This includes the incredibly catchy Southern Belle, the up-tempo Lose Control and a show-stopping rendition of the fast and furious Burn Your Anger. An encore featuring the dark and brooding Walk On The Land brings McGregor’s 90-minute set to a close.
Having been fortunate enough to see Chantel perform live several times this year, she is currently in the form of her life right now. Tonight’s show at the ARC chronicles the artist’s musical growth and development as both a singer, songwriter and guitarist.
Whilst Chantel McGregor may be touring in support of her new concert album Bury’d Alive, still, the best way to appreciate the Bradford based guitar slinger is live and in person.
Bromsgrove Artrix - 22.9.19
Maximum Volume Music - Andy Thorley
This, to use the football cliché, was a gig of two halves. Not in terms of consistency – they were both superb – but literally.
“We are doing something a bit different tonight,” Chantel McGregor had said at the start, before she’d played “Anesthetise” acoustic. “We are going to do two sets, so you can go to the bar and stuff…..”
After that, she’d smiled. She does that a lot. And in my notes at, well, half time (you know, the bit in the football match where me and my brother are ranting because our team is losing again…..) I’d written the bullet point: “looks happy to be here….”
In the second half she explained why.
Introducing the band – and isn’t there something just perfect about a trio? – she got to bass player Nic Southwood and to cut a long story short, she only met him at 2.30 this afternoon. Their usual four stringer couldn’t make it, and the stand-in “didn’t fancy it……”
This would have been bad enough, except that two of the audience members had come all the way from America for the show the night before and tonight, “so it was kind of important we got a bass player…..” says Chantel, smiling in a way that suggests that she wasn’t smiling last week…..
From out of the adversity, though, came some wonderful music, as the three – completed by Thom Gardiner on drums – play a quite wonderful show.
The thing about McGregor – I’d heard her two studio albums but never seen her live – is that she is as good a guitarist as there is (for goodness sake, listen to the solo she plays on “Inconsolable”) but doesn’t feel the need to overplay. Indeed, only once is there an instrumental, the brilliant “April” which is on her new live album (“it’s in the foyer and I’ve got a new card scanner thingy….”) the rest of the work just breathes alongside the songs.
They are fine songs too! “Take The Power”, with its screeching riff and McGregor’s voice moulding perfectly, the righteously sleazy “Like No Other” and “Lose Control” are right from the top draw.
There is also a glorious haphazard nature about the whole thing too. There’s a setlist, but she doesn’t seen to pay much attention, asking the band “shall we do…..?” more than once. The vibe is wonderfully relaxed.
“Southern Belle” changes tack a little, and is funkier, “Your Fever” boasts a genuine heavy metal power chord, which suggests if you fancy pigeonholing this you can forget it, I mean crikey, “Burn Your Anger” even sounds angry, and you can’t say anything else does.
Before she plays “Walk On Land” McGregor says, “this is our official last song, but you’ll shout more and we’ll come back on”, which is what happens too. And “Freefalling” is a mighty encore.
“Thanks for coming I hope you had an awesome time, tell your friends…..” she says as she leaves, and that’s basically it in a nutshell. Chantel McGregor is almost like a cottage industry, like Marillion or The Levellers.
That’s brilliant, but talent – and a stage manner like this – deserves so much more.
Newcastle Cluny - 31.8.19
National Rock Review - Adam Kennedy
For music fans, whether it be an artist’s new material or tour dates – as they say, all good things come to those who wait.
It’s been approximately four years since the release of Chantel McGregor’s last studio album Lose Control. And whilst her fans have been eager for new material, the British blues/rock guitarist and singer/songwriter has been busy on the road and in the studio. The result of which is that Chantel McGregor is presently getting ready to release, not one but two albums worth of material.
The beauty of each of these recordings is that they both showcase a different side of the artist. Of course, we all know that Chantel McGregor rocks, but her forthcoming acoustic record will highlight an area of the Bradford native’s playing that is not so often heard on record. Whilst Chantel’s upcoming concert record will feature live tracks from both of her studio albums, as well as some previously unreleased material.
It’s been a couple of years since McGregor’s last show on Tyneside. And following a trip down the coast from Edinburgh including stops for Fish and Chips at Sea Houses, as well as taking in the sights of TV show Vera – Chantel and her band arrives at The Cluny in Newcastle.
With a new live album still just a week away from release, presently the best and only way to experience Chantel McGregor live is in person. And tonight the loyal Tyneside crowd need no encouragement, as they are out in their droves to witness the return of their favourite Yorkshire guitar slinger.
As Chantel takes to the stage she takes the crowd through the first half of the show, which is largely drawn from sophomore album Lose Control. Of course, Chantel’s second album represented a harder rock-orientated side of her repertoire. Tracks featuring at the top of the night include set opener Take The Power, the frantic Killing Time, the incredibly infectious Southern Belle along with the dark and brooding Your Fever.
There are many jaw-dropping moments in tonight’s show and the first of which comes five songs into the set when Chantel graces The Cluny audience with the magical Eternal Dream. This stunning Jeff Buckley inspired composition gently switches the pace of the set. Whilst McGregor’s emotive solo in the latter stages of the song is a highlight for sure.
A three-song acoustic segment follows, which in turn, gives the crowd a taste of what is to come from Chantel’s forthcoming unplugged album. This includes a beautiful airing of Anaesthetize, a stripped-back performance of old favourite Caught Out. However, it is one of Chantel’s more recent tracks – Inconsolable that steals the show. The latter of which starts as a gentle acoustic ballad before meandering into a fully electrified display of guitar mastery. McGregor channels so much of herself into her playing.
Chantel picks the pace back up with Lose Control and Burn Your Anger, before introducing a further new track in the shape of April. Chantel walks a fine line between rock, blues and prog and the epic aforementioned track certainly has a more progressive flavour to it. For those wanting to hear more, April will also appear on McGregor’s new live album.
The main set is brought to a close with one of the few tracks to feature from Chantel’s debut record by way of Freefalling before a spellbinding rendition of Walk On The Land closes out the night proper.
Tonight’s show is a real joy from start to finish. For those wanting to hear more, Chantel McGregor’s new live album will be released on Friday 6th September.
Glasgow Hard Rock Cafe - 29.8.19
Fabrications HQ - Ross Muir
In recent conversation with FabricationsHQ Chantel McGregor, the wee West Yorkshire lass with a huge sound, equally big talent and exemplary rock guitar skills, compared her (music) life of late to waiting for that bus that never seems to come, then arrives with another two of three right behind it.
The humorous remark was based on the fact it’s been four years since her excellent sophomore release Lose Control but now, having previously had other familial priorities to deal with, Miss McGregor has a hot of the CD press(ings) live album, started work on an acoustic album, was gearing up for the recording of the long awaited follow-up to Lose Control and embarking on a lengthy UK tour that included another appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe in Glasgow.
Given that Lose Control songs have been the staple of Chantel McGregor’s live set these last four years (usually accompanied by one or two covers and her ever evolving, progressive fusion blues instrumental 'April') there were no real surprises in store for the Hard Rock Cafe crowd, but there were a couple of notable change-ups.
Firstly, the usual one-two opening salvo of big and bruising 'Take the Power' and the riffier 'Killing Time' were even more high-energy than usual (if they were "amps up" last time around they were "amps to 11" in their 2019 guise).
Those songs, and others such as short and sharp 'Lose Control' and grungier blues of 'Your Fever,' were given the full Southern Gothic inspired bhuna from McGregor, bassist Colin Sutton (whose sinewy four-string style is the perfect foil to McGregor’s rapier six-string work) and drummer Thom Gardner.
Messrs Sutton & Gardner also make for a tight and very flexible rhythm section – but then they have to, given Miss McGregor’s penchant for semi-improvised excursions such as on the aforementioned 'April' and what has become a true highlight of the set, 'Inconsolable.'
The latter starts in similar acoustic fashion to the Jonatha Brooke’s original but develops in to an extended, lets-see-where-we-can-take-it work-out that features some scintillating, in the zone six-string play from Chantel McGregor (the Jeff Buckley inspired 'Eternal Dream' has a similarly lost in the guitar flow shape about it).
The other change-a-round was the acoustic reworking of 'Caught Out' from debut album Like No Other and, similarly, an acoustic restyling for Lose Control's acoustic & strings number, 'Anaesthetize.'
Both are likely to feature on the forthcoming acoustic album.
There was also a welcome Like No Other showing for the swampy blues affected 'I’m No Good For You' before the mid-tempo groove of 'Freefallin’' and progressively framed, slow build number 'Walk On Land' closed out another stand-out show from an artist who continues to be herself and refuses conform (too prog for blues, too rock for prog). That should be applauded as loudly as her performances.
Right, when’s the next Chantel Bus due?
Edinburgh Bannermans - 27.8.19
Decibel Geek - Tom Cornell
Chantel McGregor returned to Bannerman’s Bar in Edinburgh as part of a short northern tour in advance of her new live album Bury’d Alive recorded I believe in Bury St Edmunds hence the title.
A healthy crowd turned up on a Tuesday night to see the lady and her band perform songs from both albums as well as some new material. They opened with the title track of the last album “Take The Power” followed by “Killing Time” also from that album. What got me was the power (no pun intended) of the band, they came over as real “power trio”, I am sure I was rattling standing near the speakers. There were a few little technical issues and sound problems on the night, but as expected they were dealt with and sorted with good grace and a few laughs and jokes. There is no way you do not get proper entertainment at a Chantel gig and this was no different.
The crowd was quieter than normal I thought, with fewer shouts from them, but without doubt their appreciation was shown by spontaneous outbursts of applause at the end of some solos which wowed them and the general reception at the end of each song.
There was a decent split between the two albums out with Chantel deciding what to play as she went along. Full credit to her band both Colin on bass and Tom on drums who went with the flow keeping the event fresh and interesting. At one point Chantel asked the rest of the band “should we do…?” only to be answered by Colin with “As though this is a democracy” with a grin on his face. It is OK as Colin got some abuse back regarding his wearing a leather jacket before he came onstage. He said he was wearing it “for style”just to be told “it didn’t work” by Chantel. I enjoy seeing a band banter and have fun onstage.
The other noticeable thing is that they improvise quite a bit, sure there is the odd mistake but again the smiles winks and nods between the members as they get over them and reach out to try something else different within a song makes each gig a true experience. The playing is excellent and they have a trust among each other and when one of them does something that adds to the night there are smiles all round.
There are some moments of pure emotion especially in the solos, including some fantastic playing on “Eternal Dream” and the absolute gut-wrenching version of “Inconsolable” where both the guitar and Chantel seemed to go through the wringer. It seemed on the night that the song and the solo affected her and to be honest the crowd as well. Very rare to see such raw emotion on a stage. The fact someone gave her a napkin after it (there were jokes about it not being a hanky) tells you all you need to know about that moment in time.
There was also a couple of acoustic tracks played and we were told that there was an acoustic album coming out also in the near future. They are mostly songs already recorded but with different slants or styles. The two and a half songs on acoustic guitar were placed around the middle of the set.
The variety of material is interesting, making Chantel hard to categorize, with some real jam sessions and yet moments of almost pure pop with a jazz touch. A couple of songs are cheeky sounding and her facial expressions are very effective. I am thinking primarily of “Your Fever”, “Fabulous”, a song she said “you can dance to” and “I’m No Good For You” which she remarked was a “blues track… oh I said the B-word” whilst laughing. To counterbalance that there is something like “April” which is improvised, or at least quite a bit of it, the track is never the same any night.
Once again an excellent evening with a very talented lady along with a very fine band in a venue which we were asked to support by Chantel due to it being one of her favorite venues to play. All I can say if she is playing near you get along, you will have a great night.