Oli Brown visits Bristol for one of a select few dates back playing his blues. It’s been a long time coming!
Oli Brown has not played many blues gigs since touring in 2013 to support the album, Here I Am. Having worked on the BroZan project with Lyle Molzan, and then forming Raveneye to satisfy his rock lust, he has now decided to revisit where it started. He’s going back to his roots and playing his old blues material on a few dates.
There is no support act. Instead, the multi-talented Aaron Spiers leaves his bass on the stand and picks up his acoustic guitar to give the crowd a mix of his songs and covers. His songs are well written, with meaning that is especially apparent in the lyrics about his family and leaving his home in Australia to come to the other side of the world.
The interesting selection of covers includes “Jolene” and “Englishman in New York.” It ends with a very Bryan Adams sounding rendition of “I Want to Break Free.” This is a great start to the night, and both Aaron and the growing audience are warmed up for the approaching performance.
Oli hits the stage with Aaron back on bass and Kev Hickman on drums. They open with “Thinking About Her,” from his last blues solo album, Here I Am. It is a classic Oli performance – steady rhythm, heavy on the beat, and expertly played. It’s easy to see why the large crowd is glad to see him back where many would say he belongs. Oli uses the same band that makes up Raveneye, his rock alter-ego project. Although this makes the songs sound heavier than you might expect, it does make for a very tight group.
“Manic Bloom” comes next, followed by an excellent version of the title track, “Here I Am.” They dedicate it to a fan who has followed Oli and Raveneye to many concert dates that include shows in Europe. The set goes a little further back to the Heads I Win, Tails You Lose album for “Speechless.”
This last song features another trademark Oli solo, showing he can still pull off those great blues riffs. Kev is playing solidly at the back, twirling sticks and smiling as though he is playing Wembley. There is a great moment where Oli, as he solos away, gradually dials his guitar volume down until all that can be heard is the soft strumming of a pick against steel strings. He continues on, his solo but a whisper, before he finds 11 on the dial and blasts off to the end of the song.
Next, the band exits the stage leaving Oli to pick up his acoustic and give fans three recently written songs, which include stories of the joys of dodgy girlfriends, and the drastic measures to escape them. Returning to the stage with Kev on cajón and Aaron on acoustic guitar, the band plays “Train Ticket” and “Hey Hey Yeah” – a Raveneye song that is typically heavy. However, the acoustic version is celebrated by all with fans singing along.
Back to the full band, “Brown Sugar” follows and features a remarkable bass solo from Aaron. “I Love You More Than You Will Know” is next, and this version features another blistering Oli solo that has the crowd screaming in praise. Finally comes a track from Oli’s first album, Open Road, for the firm favourite, “Roxanne.” The crowd chants and sings in unison, and then it’s over. Way too soon.
The audience had waited a long two years for an Oli blues gig in Bristol. They are not prepared to let it end yet. The band comes back on for an encore of one of Oli’s first cover songs – Ram Jams’ “Black Betty.” The extended version features a pulsing solo by Kev on the drums, which is appreciated by all. It is a great end to a perfect night. But Oli, please don’t leave fans waiting so long next time!