Now let’s be clear, I will travel anywhere, through anything, to find a good gig. Tonight was no exception, safe to say I was monumentally pumped. Leaving Basildon at six to get to Putney by eight is a doddle on an ordnance survey map. Come six-forty-five my excitement was gone, I was stuck on the A13. What possessed me exactly to try to drive through the middle of London at rush hour I do not know, but by seven I have only just reached Tower Bridge. “You have one hour to travel ten miles,” I tell myself, I would be mortified if I was to miss the fantastic Stevie Nimmo and Ben Poole. Seven-thirty at the Elephant and Castle, five miles to go. Seven-forty-five and I’ve just passed the Oval, it’s getting tense like a Top Gear challenge. People on bikes are lapping me, I am applying deodorant at red lights. Eight o’clock and I’m parked, I just need to find the place.
Thankfully, The Half Moon in Putney was not hard to find, as it’s at the kind end of the Lower Richmond Road. From the outside it appears like just any other trendy West-London pub, stepping inside it does little to change your mind. The décor is nice, a very clean joint with plenty of room to socialise. But this pub is busy for Thursday night, and has a cracking atmosphere. So where is the gig? Tell me I haven’t put the wrong pub into my sat nav.
At the rear of the main bar are a set of double doors, sound-proofed I am sure but I didn’t take the time to check. These lead into a small hall, I would guess it holds over 200 in a squeeze, but with a nice low-ish roof and a stage that takes up at least twenty percent of the room. I see drums, a keyboard, some mics and a rack of guitars – this rapidly brought the buzz back that was lost back at the Tower of London. At this point around forty people are in the room – enter Stevie Nimmo.
Stevie Nimmo is a presence to say the least and he lets the guitar rip, it’s a riffy opener and he is creating the energy in spite of a small crowd. He needs just himself on guitar, Mat Beable on Bass and Craig Bacon on drums, keys are redundant. After ten minutes we are two songs down ears ringing from non-stop riff and solo and the sweet tones of Nimmo’s cultured, mature voice loaded with bags of soul. He chooses his moments to stand out, not seemingly one to hog the limelight, but gladly shows off his talents when he needs to.
Now it is time for him to show off his new material. Change was very much in the style of the Nimmo Brothers with Stevie singing over bass on the verses, the crowd were very receptive to this track as people continued to enter the room. Then Running On Back To You was a slower track with a nice long and neat solo. The last of his new stuff was the fantastic Gambler’s Roll which was as soulful as his voice got all evening. There has been a video of this track circling online and it’s well worth a watch. As he got towards the end of the set he went back to a track from his last album “The Wynds Of Life” called A Good Day For The Blues. Another crowd pleaser, and a good opportunity for Nimmo to show off that southern strumming style that he adopted so heavily on that album.
The set finished with a song in memory of his friend George called The Storm. All I can say about this one is that for all that made the song great, his guitar work stood out. The solo was long, and he knew he was milking it, in fact I’m sure it was so long that it wiped a-whole-song from the set. But it was flawless, as was the set as a whole. The venue wasn’t big enough to have perfect sound, and yet it was shame that it was too big for these two great artist to fill. There must be only 100 people at most in here by now, and that’s rounding it up.
Half-nine, welcome Ben Poole, I wouldn’t say he’s more popular, but I would say there’s more hype. He’s accompanied again by Mat Beable and Craig Bacon, this time with the addition of Stevie Watts on keyboards, and boy did he make a difference. Beable and Bacon, without meaning to make them sound like a television duo, played such an important part. Through the blues of both artists they keep the rhythm going, and deserve extra credit for keeping a good night on track, like the designated drivers of the blues scene. Both were flawless and allowed both Nimmo and Poole to ply their trade.
Poole opens with Let’s Go Upstairs and anyone who has spent any amount of time with Poole’s “Live At The Royal Albert Hall” album will appreciate this track. It’s got a lovely guitar riff, the guitar setup is perfect and you get the impression that’s just how he likes it, and the crowd appreciate it. Before long he is introducing the band to much applause from all in this intimate venue, at which point we have the first of many fantastic keyboard solos of the evening.
Ben quickly got into new material, and rightly so. He started with the entertaining Longing For A Woman before the fantastic Lying To Me. The latter was rocky especially at the chorus and a very well structured song all round, at this point the corner of my eye catches a handful of people dancing – exactly what this evening needs. As much as Ben likes to show his own tracks off we know he likes to call on many of his influences, he dives into Have You Ever Loved A Woman by Freddie King, recalling how he loved the Derek And The Dominos version. He begins with a solo intro, this version has everything, a song in excess of ten minutes, with a nice keyboard solo to boot.
He burns through tracks in mesmerising style, leaving me little time to make notes, leaving me little memories but epic guitar solos with classic bluesy vocals. Some review this is turning out to be, huh? There is an excellent chemistry between Poole and Watts on the keyboards, one that you have to witness in order to appreciate. Poole is the most adept guitar player I have seen of his generation, and has a bravado about his playing that attracts people to his performances that is the difference between an artist and an entertainer. Needless to say he doesn’t stick to just the one guitar, he has his favourites, but he likes to give them all airtime. At this point it is worth stating, Ben Poole for all his epic solos and obvious confidence that he carries, seems to not hold any of the usual young rockstar personality defects. He likes to be in the centre, he likes to show off, but he shows the others off too. He acknowledges that he is not the one man band.
If you couldn’t see that nine-tenth’s of Ben Poole’s guitar work was influenced by Gary Moore, he told the room in advance of his next new song. Time Might Never Come was the song of the evening by far, the slow tune is well constructed and not short in solos, I cannot wait to hear the studio version of this. Just as my painstaking journey here was a distant memory, it was all coming to a close, but not before Ben invited Nimmo back on stage for the encore. They played a fantastic version of Freddie King’s Going Down, with both artists getting verses, both getting solos and another measure of keyboard solo.
As the lights came back on and the atmosphere lifted both artists emerged immediately from the dressing room to greet the audience. Both took time to sign cd’s and converse with those who had come to watch, a nice touch which you don’t always see. The gig was superb by any standard, both artists perhaps exploring different ends of the same genre, perfectly fitting on the bill together. It was a shame there were not more to see it, and I suppose that’s my job here, to nudge you to the right places. Get yourself to the next available gig from either of these two, you will not be disappointed.