Live Review : Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequins + Bad Dog @ The Tivoli, Buckley on June 21st 2019

There’s a very famous comedy show that gave us the now immortal line “and now for something completely different” and that’s what I’m expecting tonight.

First up, we have local band Bad Dog, who I have seen several times before but not recently. So the different thing about them is that they have improved. Immensely. I recall a young band whose enthusiasm way outstripped their talent, and what I got tonight was a badass blues-rock band with a distinct twinge of Southern boogie about them. They mostly play their own songs, and there is an EP floating around which contains a song called ‘Primal Scream’ that I particularly liked. Covers at the end of the set were a rocked-out version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chainand a stomping version of The BeatlesCome Together’. Imagine if ZZ Top played that song? Kind of like that. They finished with a dirty version of Clutch’s ‘Electric Worry’, which I always think pf as the bang bang song. Yeah, that was OK.

It’s a sparse crowd in Buckley tonight, which is a huge shame because Ryan and his Harlequin Ghosts are on fire. Their sound is really hard to pinpoint, there’s a little bit of rock but mostly a whole lot of country. Probably some western in there too! The opening couple of tracks are from his previous album “The Devil’s In The Details” and include the single ‘Smarter’ which has to be one of the catchiest, happiest songs ever written. Even the Grumpy Husband is smiling, and I just know he’s going to be on Ebay looking for cowboy boots when we get home!

This is not, to paraphrase The Quireboys, rock n’ roll. It’s some good ole boys (and girl!) playing rock-based well-crafted country songs with style and (according to my notes) cuteness. I’m not sure if that’s a word I’ve ever used in a review before! Think Tom Petty, and you’re in the right ballpark. They are signed to Stevie Van Zandt’s record label. There’s even a tribute solo to Stevie Ray Vaughan from guitarist Dave.

The band’s first release was a cover of Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’, and they made it into a bot of a medley by incorporating a bit of REO Speedwagon – again with the happy faces and dancy feet.

Ryan does his special thing for us, which is to write a song “off the cuff” there and then, with the band joining in and jamming through it. Not sure of the title but it was basically about his previous trips to Wales and involved him learning to pronounce Llandudnoo correctly!

There was a beautiful ballad, ‘Won’t Stop Now’, a tale of lost love, that was just haunting piano and harmony vocals from keyboardist Carol. It inspired me to pick up a copy of the new album “This Is The Sound”, which I am listening to even as I write this.

The rest of the band come back and we get some more country blues, finishing with the rousing singalong ‘Bottom’s Up (Here’s To Goodbye)’, also from the new album.

After mingling with the crowd and signing various things the band and audience wander off into the night, and I am somewhat disappointed to find that there are no horses tied to hitching posts outside the venue. Somehow it felt like I had been transported to a wild west saloon tonight, and the cold hard reality of a Vauxhall van just doesn’t cut it really!

Words and photography by Jo Crosby