REVIEW: Superb mix of musical styles at hit charity gig

Sam Kelly's Station House with Vintage
Sam Kelly's Station House with Vintage

Sam Kelly’s Station House and Vintage, Ashington Community Centre, Saturday, February 1

It’s always heartening to see musicians join forces for charity.

However, it’s especially enjoyable when the performers involved have plenty of experience under their belts and are playing with an internationally acclaimed drummer.

Overall, Sam Kelly and his ‘groove’ band offer a superb evening of exuberant tunes in aid of Chestnut Tree House with some outstanding support from the young Vintage rock ’n’ roll trio.

Before the gig starts, though, both bands are keen to talk to the County Times about the kind of music they like to play.

“We do ’50s and ’60s rock and roll covers,” says Matt Spearman, singer and double bass player for Vintage. “Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry. That sort of era.”

Considering the youthful appearance of the band members it seems an unusual musical era to like, but guitarist James MacKenzie says its appeal is universal.

“It’s just a fun style of music,” he states. “Everyone loves Elvis. Everyone loves Buddy Holly, even the young people.”

Sam Kelly’s Station House have a very different sound to Vintage, one that’s influenced by soul, jazz and calypso among other genres.

Sam, who has worked with artists like Chaka Khan, Dr John and Ben E. King, says: “The music I love playing most is sort-of New Orleans second line by bands like Dr John, Professor Longhair, the Meters – that kind of genre.”

But, he makes clear, the band is very adaptable.

“We can play a bit of funk, we play reggae. We try and cover many of the fields and also feel the music as well. And that way, hopefully you keep the enthusiasm there.”

It’s an unusual combination of styles but both bands promise a fun evening, with Matt predicting that audience members will be up and dancing.

He’s not wrong.

Vintage open the show on great form, their fiery energy perfectly suiting their choice of ’50s rock ’n’ roll covers.

The trio’s versions of Blue Suede Shoes and Oh Boy! draw dancing couples towards the stage...and not just younger people either. The band’s zest is infectious and older couples twirl each other around to the enduring rock classics.

“Are we doing alright so far?” asks Matt. The audience’s answer is a resounding ‘yes’

After a couple more numbers Sam Kelly and keyboardist Paul Jobson head onstage to join the trio for a fantastic cover of Great Balls of Fire, adding a richer sound to the already lively performance.

Then, it’s down to Sam’s Kelly’s Station House to provide the ‘groove’ until the end of the first half, something that all the members are more than capable of.

Their music is looser and more laid back than Vintage’s tight style but quality of the playing means that the shift in tone isn’t jarring at all.

Sam and co. are clearly having fun tonight too. Bassist Winston Blissett gets some funky solos, percussionist Jerome Marcus dances and drums at the same time and Michael ‘Lally’ Carey makes his guitar wail. Sam also shows what he can do throughout the evening, getting a big cheer after a successful improvised drum solo.

The jam-like nature of the set creates a playful mood but the band still make everything fit together beautifully.

Paul Jobson’s satisfying blues singing also helps lead everyone in the same direction.

After a break, which includes a round of fish and chips (always nice), Vintage come back to help the audience work off some calories. There are easily twice as many dancers down the front than at the beginning of the evening, clearly having a great time with retro hits like Rock Around the Clock and Johnny B. Goode.

Then it’s back to Sam Kelly’s Station House, as they fill the second half with numbers that manage to be smooth, soulful, funky and fun at the same time.

Speaking near the end of the event, organiser Graeme Tame says that about 120 tickets were sold.

“I thought it was a really, really good night,” he states, smiling. “I think everyone’s enjoyed it.”

He’s got that right. Bring on the next one.

The next event in aid of Chestnut Tree House at Ashington Community Centre will be Larry Miller on May 3. Call Graeme on 07889775173.

Review and pictures by Lawrence Smith