The fact that Robert Jon Burrison and his crew could draw a capacity crowd on a Monday night says a lot about the pulling power of good time Blues Rock. The Wreck are a tight well drilled band who look to be used to larger halls than the hold of the Thekla. The iconic Bristol venue on a ship may have a stage the size of a postage stamp, but Robert Jon and The Wreck owned it tonight.
They hit the stage with ‘She’s a Fighter’ and played through a set drawn from across their career. Highlights of the evening were plentiful. ‘Oh Miss Carolina’ was a great opening song on their ‘Last Light on The Highway’ album and has evolved since then into one of the showcases for Henry James’ considerable guitar skills. Clearly a devotee in equal parts of Hendrix and Duane Allman his slide guitar solos are as impressive as his highspeed fretwork. ‘Waiting for Your Man’, ‘Desert Sun’ and fan favourite ‘Shine a Light On Me Brother’ were other songs that stood out.
Even on this tiny stage the band perform as though they were at Wembley. Bassist Warren Murrel throwing shapes and Henry James standing at the very edge of the stage during most of his solos. Robert Jon himself combines the stage presences of Jagger and Richards. When he’s playing the stadiums, he will fill the room in exactly the same way. Drummer Andrew Espantman and Bob Fridzema on keyboards are both given solo spots to ensure they get some time in the spotlight. Burrison clearly knows this is a band performance despite his name being front and centre. Encore ‘Cold Night’ was extended into another guitar extravaganza with James and Burrison doing a more than passable take on the Allmans’ twin guitar sound.
The audience was a wide range of people rather than just blokes of a certain age and stomach circumference that you might have expected, showing that Robert Jon and The Wreck have every chance of breaking out into becoming a major act. Their recent signing with Joe Bonamassa’s KTBA Records seems to confirm that. The only downside to the Thekla is the awful sound quality at anything approaching the volume that a band like The Wreck expect. Some of the guitar solos and keyboards vanished behind a wash of distortion, but the energy on stage and an appreciative audience made for a gig that will have made fans of the casual gig goers and confirmed to those of us who have been in their corner for a while that this a band destined for greatness.
Support was from Laura Evans and her guitar accompanist Joe Coombes. It seems likely that her songs and performance work better with a full band, but she was a good warm up act, saving her best song ‘I’m Alright’ until the end.