This doubleheader at The Bourne Music Club, Sittingbourne, a small but rocking little venue, saw two of the more highly rated lesser-known bands combining on a fifteen-date tour across the UK to produce an evening of fervent, enjoyable music. The Commoners, making their UK debut, are a five-piece roots & rock band from Toronto, and Troy Redfern is heralded as being the king of UK slide guitar players, so on paper, this looked to be an intriguing gig.
And so it proved to be. I’ll readily admit to knowing little more than nothing about The Commoners, but they made their mark. With music they describe as ‘possessing a sound tapped from the oaken belly of a whisky barrel,’ they’re tough, rootsy and bluesy and brought to mind the Black Crowes and the Allman Brothers, no bad thing. Their set was drawn mostly from their latest album, Find A Better Way, and they open with the title track, which is a call to the human race to get its act together after some of the events during the past few years. This is followed by ‘Naturally’, the slow bluesy ballad ‘Deadlines’ and ‘Hanging On Again’. On ‘Body And Soul’, a track which didn’t make it onto their last album, guitar man Ross Citrullo produces a violin bow and uses it to good effect before they close with the lively ‘Fill My Cup’. This was only the Commoners’ second UK show and, with sets like this, it’s a fair bet they’ll make a lot of friends on this tour.
Troy Redfern followed on and, for a man supposedly seeped in the blues, he and his three-piece band of guitar, bass and drums produced mostly their somewhat rockier side, albeit one laced with some fine guitar work, with little in the way of actual blues. He’s certainly an awful lot closer to Johnny Winter than he is to Robert Johnson, but this fits in with his vibe of being a free spirit, someone who sets his own agenda. That he knows his way up and down a fretboard isn’t in doubt and, once he gets his groove going, he’s on his way. From the rip-roaring opener of ‘All Night Long’, he plays several songs from his latest album, Wings Of Salvation, such as a blistering ‘Sweet Carolina’, plus ‘Dark Religion’ and ‘Down’ – Some sleazy guitar work on ‘Scorpio’, a superb ‘Waiting For Your Love‘ and concludes with a rocking ‘Sanctify’ from his previous album The Fire Cosmic.
Gigs like this are the perfect antidote to London’s O2 arena or any Hyde Park gig where it’s 100% certain you’ll be subject to extortionate ticket prices, plus the iniquitous ‘booking fee’ from Ticketmaster and their ilk. Tonight featured two acts who both gave the fans real value for not too much money, in a venue with reasonably priced drinks .. no £8.50 pints as sold at the Shepherds Bush Empire. Redfern is back in Kent in July at the Maid of Stone Festival, and it’ll be interesting to see how he comes across in front of a larger crowd.