Live Review : Buck & Evans @ JImmy's, Manchester on May 26th 2019
It’s another bank holiday weekend, and here in this cool little downstairs venue it's the debut appearance of the countries fast rising blues rock soul outfit Buck & Evans. Featuring guitarist Chris Buck and vocalist Sally Ann Evans, they came together over 4 years ago for a one off support gig, the chemistry worked so well they have since developed into somewhat of a sensation. In fact Chris has recently won the 'Best guitarist' by Total Guitar magazine amongst many other accolades for this young Welshman. With a couple of EP’s, and their debut album crowd funded by Pledge Music “Write A Better Day” now available, and both recent singles ‘Slow Train’ and ‘Going Home’ getting rave reviews and radio play on Planet Rock, Classic Rock, Radio 2, amongst many others, things seem to be only heading upwards for this band.
A short 8 day tour around the UK with a sold out Manchester date thrown in the middle sets the scene for tonight. I've a gut feeling that very soon the days of playing small venues like this, will be something of the past for these guys.
Things don't get off to a good start, the band's van breaks down in an almost Bad News kind of way outside of Birmingham en route, meaning that as we head downstairs into the venue, the band are still busy setting up their gear. The place is filling up quickly, no one's checking tickets, and the basement is soon rammed. I'm packed up close right at the front and wedged between a pillar and a huge speaker stack. Probably not a good idea, but let’s see how it goes, I’m not missing this.
Chris starts with apologizing for the water pump blowing up before they launch into ‘Slow Train’ which sets the scene and creates an intimacy of an almost VH1 Storyteller like evening which I’m certain won’t be seen again for a while. It causes an immediate impact, the crowd lap up the beautiful swirling harmonies in bucket loads, quickly followed by ‘Going Home’, Chris and Sally begin swapping tales of trying to fix the van, urinating in lay-bys and starting their day 17 hours earlier.
It’s a wonderful way to calm the band down and connect with the crowd. It’s like watching Gavin and Stacey, It’s easy to see why they are held in such high accolade from not just the press, but also so many of their peers with songs like ‘Common Ground’, ‘Trail of Tears’ and ‘Impossible’ possessing some stunning guitar work. Chris is a naturally talented player, carving out notes and phrases almost Knofler-esq with his use of thumb and fingers. He plays in a trance; eyes closed, wringing out each and every note like it's the last ones he's ever likely to play, and with a maturity way beyond his years whilst Sally has such a subliminal vocal range, binding together to create gorgeous intertwining vocal harmonies. She sits mainly at her organ perfectly colouring the tapestries being woven, but it's not just Buck & Evans, there’s the engine shed at the back tighter than the proverbial duck, Bob Richards on drums and Dominic Hill’s bass work stunningly together and form the band as a unit not a duo.
It certainly is an amazing privileged position to be here, one of the highlights being their stunning version of an old Otis Redding song; ‘I’ve Got Dreams to Remember’ which demonstrates exactly why Chris Buck has been lauded by people like Slash and Bernie Marsden. The evening ends almost as quickly as it began, the audience demand another, and quite rightly, it's given. After 17hrs the band has arrived, performed and conquered and now quite happy to hang out at the merch stand with the lucky few that are here.
We always look back at times when we remember being somewhere when an artist plays then goes on to bigger things; for those here tonight it will be Buck & Evans. If you're never heard of Buck & Evans, well, you bloody well should do. Look on Spotify, turn on Planet Rock, go buy the album, tell your friends, something special is emerging from deepest Cardiff and it promises to be a big one.