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Blue Traffic – 7th April 2007
Ah well! I like to think that I can play the guitar a little and have very often been inspired by watching bands play on a Borough Blues Club gig night. However, occasionally there is a performance so talented that the realisation dawns that no amount of practice will help ordinary mortals attain such musical heights. Then, far from being inspired, one normally considers going home and chopping one’s guitar up. (I jest). Dave Williams, guitarist for Rhondda based outfit Blue Traffic, is such a maestro. His virtuosity was apparent even in the pre-gig warm up, and this was followed by a Masterclass of guitar technique and performance. He was brilliantly supported by the superb Wayne Jones on bass and by Meirion Simpson on drums, who worked so skilfully and hard that he looked at times as if he was going into meltdown. This three-some, who all sing, provided vibrant music and for a couple of hours wowed the audience and shook the Club to its foundations.
This was a welcome return to the Borough Blues for the band and their popularity was underlined by the fact that the gig had been sold out for two weeks. The room was full and the atmosphere expectant (and, due to the new regulations, totally clear of smoke). The warm applause which greeted the opening number “Green Onions” reflected how glad the crowd were to see the band and continued throughout the evening until the rapturous applause for the final number “Sweet Home Chicago”. In between there was a selection of popular, rocky, “modern” blues classics such as “Little Wing”, “Crossroads” and a head-pounding version of “Jumping Jack Flash” which closed the first set. Dave Williams cut excerpts from “Norwegian Wood” into “Voodoo Chile” and sections from “Eleanor Rigby” and “Black Magic Woman” into the Animals’ “Please don’t let me be misunderstood”. Blues purists may not necessarily have appreciated all this and neither was there much in the way of dancing as there usually is during the evening, but there was a general sense of admiration, enjoyment and amazement at the performance.
Some folks thought the band was too loud, and the vocals were scarce and muffled; and at times the sheer intensity of the music was overpowering. More bluesy, quieter and melodic breaks from the relentless, finger-shredding, flashy guitar work would have provided much-needed contrast to heighten appreciation. A couple of numbers with less notes and more feeling would have produced more balanced sets – and the band were capable of it as shown in the soulful introduction to “All along the Watchtower” which progressed from the slow, searching and dramatic to a crescendo of Hendrix-like proportions. Brilliant!
Throughout the evening Wayne Jones and Meirion Simpson provided a great platform for the guitar work. For a “three-piece” this band has a remarkably full sound which is testament to the unassuming contribution that the drums and bass provide and drew comparisons with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble.
Late in the set Dave Williams went through a repertoire of Hendrix-style tricks, such as playing with his teeth. Little Dave Lewis, sitting by me, who also aspires to the guitar, observed that the Blue Traffic man could play better with the instrument behind his back than he, Little Dave, could play in the conventional way and he decided to go home and chop his fingers off (Another jest, I think)
A drum solo from Meirion Simpson and encores of “Rock me, Baby” (with the Welsh National Anthem interjected), “Red House” and “Flip, Flop and Fly” brought the evening to the climactic final number - and most people went homeward very highly satisfied after a great nights entertainment.
The Borough Blues Club may welcome Blue Traffic again in the future, but in keeping with the policy of providing a wide variety of music this may not be for some considerable time. If you missed them or want to see them again in the meantime they are appearing at the Abertillery Blues Festival in July. Here they will be supporting famous names from the 60’s the Animals and the Yardbirds. The old timers had better watch out……………….!
(Adrian Bold – photos courtesy of Marc Smith)