Thursday 16th October 2014
The Engine Shed in Lincoln, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
Tonight's show is located upstairs in The Engine Shed's far smaller 350 capacity The Platform room, which is reassuringly two thirds full by the time Chantel McGregor hits the stage. And the cosy confines of the venue provide her with an intimate platform from which to showcase her much lauded chops. A lengthy set ensues that incorporates material from both her debut album, 'Like No Other', and as yet unreleased tracks from her forthcoming sophomore album. Despite her seemingly perennial affiliation with the blues genre, Chantel proves tonight that her musical oeuvre and general sonic palette is far wider in scope than some pigeonholing, lazy critics would have you believe. And it's not only stylistic diversity we're talking about here; rather, she also runs the gamut of aurally affective moods through a whole range of changing emotions. Through the execution of her skilfully penned compositions, she's able to convey such a profundity of feeling, whether it's her voice or guitar that takes centre stage in each passage of music.
Aided by the talented and impressively tight rhythm section of sticksman Keith McPartling and bassist Richard Ritchie, the trio of musicians create such a full sound that it belies their minimalist formation. And the way Keith plays his smallish kit, with his range of inventively improvised fills etc, is evidence that you don't need an ostentatiously large setup to enhance creativity. In fact, aside from songs' general compositional structures, it seems that certain passages of music afford the trio some improv space, which is evident from their onstage interactions. So there's a very organic feel to the music too, which is a refreshing dose of emotively-charged artistry. And then there's Chantel's fretboard skills which are simply absorbing to witness in a live context. Closing her eyes during lengthier improvised solos, and the general passion that's discernible from her facial expressions, she's most definitely "in the zone" and feeling every emotion she's expressing; this is virtuosity from within, where technical skill is fused to perfection with inner affection.
The night is not without glitches. Well, one minor glitch (or "hitch/itch" as Chantel identifies it in her entertaining rambles), when proceedings are halted abruptly due to a technical issue with the drums, just half an hour in. Re-jigging the setlist order, she performs three acoustic-based pieces by herself as the problem is rectified, including new song 'Anaesthetise' (titular inspiration from Porcupine Tree?). Keith pokes his head out between the curtains at the back, engendering a few seasonally premature panto shouts from the crowd of "he's behind you". And this actually exemplifies the atmosphere of the evening - aside from the more serious underpinnings of the music, Chantel creates a most jovial aura throughout the venue with her between-song banter. The set soon resumes with full-on heaviness and, actually, apart from established riff-heavy pieces like 'Caught Out' that was performed earlier, it's predominantly the newer material that pertains to a more rock/metal vibe, to the point where "power trio" would be a fairly applicable label for these three talented peeps.
All in all, having witnessed Chantel first-hand tonight, it's now easy to understand her ever-increasing popularity. A naturally gifted player with a wide-ranging flair on both fretboard and in her voice, she's one of the most exciting new talents to burst onto the music scene during the past few years. And, together with the duo of musicians she has in tow, is exhilarating in live action. I only hope the blues tag doesn't prove too delimiting in the future for a potentially much wider audience, as her stylistic heterogeneity far transcends that.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
Chantel McGregor in The Platform at The Engine Shed in Lincoln, UK, 16th October 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com