Broken Witt Rebels, Nell’s Jazz and Blues Club, London, 1st December 2018

Westwards, to Nell’s Jazz and Blues Club in West Kensington, which keeps the relatively underserved West side of Central London on the gigging venue roster. It’s a low-key sort of street entrance but inside the venue opens out to around 250 capacity and is encouragingly full and bustling as Broken Witt Rebels take to the stage. They have a good local following too and BWR T-shirts are peppered around the venue by the diehards. The band are supporting Reef on what is, for the headline band’s pedigree, an intimate set of venues on their current tour, and the Reef linkage indicates where their musical heartland is. They sound not unlike Bad Company or indeed, when they veer closer to the blues than the rock end of the dial, Free, with Joe Cocker maybe the more sonically equivalent vocal comparison. With their Birmingham roots, it’s true that their gritty blue-collar sound harkens back unashamedly to some of the West Midlands bands of the late 60s and early 70s. They can knock up a crafty song or four too, and their self-assured stage presence suggests they are rightly confident in their own slickness.

Lead vocalist Danny Core has a deep rough-hewn voice fully suited to the image and content and at times, on songs such as ‘Howlin’’ he is reminiscent of the Daltrey, errm, howl in ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, perhaps fittingly as we are on The Who’s earliest stomping ground. James Tranter on lead guitar masterfully cuts and thrusts through all that the songs demand whilst Luke Davis and James Dudley provide the rhythm engine room which is pushed pretty upfront in the live mix tonight. Their self- titled 2017 LP followed previous EPs ‘Howling’, ‘Georgia Pine’ and ‘This Town Belongs To Me’, and these are drawn on for their generous 45 minute/10 song stage time. Their third song, ‘Fearless‘, is one of the more American-rooted songs  with a stirring melody a la Aerosmith or Black Crowes while the penultimate number ‘Guns’ offers a fine shift towards more honed mainstream rock and recalled Bob Seger circa 1979.

It’s probably been said before but the in your face oomph of the music and the guys’ stage presence may make them more compelling as a live draw than on disc and their extensive gigging and festival itinerary is testimony to their buzzing live impression. As genres become ever more intertwined, it’s likely that Americana buffs with some Led Zep and their acolytes in their collections will be impressed by what BWR offer.

As for the headliners, in the ‘That Was Some Surprise’ category, it would be remiss not to mention that a certain Ronnie Wood, yes THAT Ronnie Wood, popped up on stage to assist Reef cover The Faces’ ‘Stay With Me’.

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