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Review: Oli Brown Band, Worthing Assembly Hall

Oli Brown Band – Worthing Assembly Hall

It’s an irony that in a genre where artists get better the older they are, blues newcomer Oli Brown is turning heads while still in his teens.

Oli’s power-packed three piece – the Oli Brown Band – delivered a powerful set at Worthing Assembly Hall last night, although it was really the wrong kind of venue for this stage in his career.

Oli Brown Band on stage in Worthing

A crowd of less than 150, spread thinly around the auditorium at tables, mustered plenty of enthusiasm, but what you really wanted was a smaller, intimate club atmosphere with sweat running down the walls.

Much of material the centred around the band’s highly acclaimed 2008 debut album Open Road, with a few blues classics such as Every Day I Have The Blues and Black Betty thrown in for good measure.

Inevitably it was Oli’s blend of powerful, mature vocals and guitar heroics that dominated. Tall, thin and with a shock of shoulder-length black hair, he was a charismatic focal point, strolling around the stage playing with the casual insouciance of a veteran. Astonishing, considering he’s only been playing the instrument for seven years.

Style-wise, there were shades of Stevie Ray Vaughan in his fluid, melodic runs, and other blues masters such as BB King and Buddy Guy (the band delivered a blistering version of his Steppin’ Out, Steppin’ In), as he cranked up the tone and the drama. At times on the slower numbers his jazz-inflected tones even touched on the likes of Joe Pass and a guitar version of Oscar Peterson.

Freddie Hollis on 6-string bass was a rock solid rhythm unit with quality drummer Simon Dring, and the pair added welcome harmony vocal back-up at times, as well as having their own solo slot to show off their virtuosity.

Standouts included album opener Psycho, the rocking title track Open Road and an impassioned Stone Cold (Roxanne) which had Oli yelling his vocal refrain sans mic to the back of the hall.

When during the encore the young guitarist sauntered out among the crowd to solo at length and up close, it was just a reminder of how blues can connect at gut level. The future’s bright for this power trio. They’re great now – give them time (and they’ve got plenty) and their potential is frightening …

Further dates lined up in the south east:

4 Dec – The West Coast Live, Margate
5 – Wingspan Club, Crawley
9 – Plaza Suite, Sevenoaks
10 – The Maltings, Farnham
15 – The Brook, Southampton
16 – The Jazz Cafe, London

More at www.oliselectricblues.co.uk

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