As Monty Python used to say, “and now for something completely different”. A few weeks ago, a call went out for someone to review Vintage Trouble on their newly announced tour. The photo with the request looked fun, but listening to a few tracks, I wasn’t sure how they fit with DGM’s target demographic, so I ignored the opportunity. A second request was made as the dates approached and talking to one of the bosses, I was told, “You have to go see them. They are one of the best live bands I have ever seen!” So, I stuck my hand in the air and bagged the gig, and off I went back to the genteel art complex in the centre of Exeter, complete with the blue rinse security team and enjoyable selection of real ales. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the unusual selection of merchandise on Vintage Trouble’s stand, including fans, and pants with the word “Troublemaker” emblazoned across the butt (a purchase I had to make for my delectable fellow reviewer and fiancé).
The doors opened, and the crowd surged forward to get in (well, they gently ambled, most were still drinking or engaging in polite conversation) to enjoy the opening act, Laurence Jones and his band. Described by Radio 2 as, “A star in the making” it is easy to see why, as the trio rip through some seriously enjoyable blues. Their sound is from the best of Blues and Rock. There are elements of Clapton, Green, and Mayall, amongst other giants of the genre, but he and his band bring a freshness and energy that is totally contemporary. The vocals are soulful and strong, and the rhythm section robust, but its Jones’ guitar that grabs your attention and refuses to give it back. His latest album “Take Me High”, produced by the legendary Mike Vernon, has been on my Spotify playlist in the car all week, and should be on yours. “Got No Place To Go” is a highlight of the set, blending past and present influences into a glorious piece of ear candy, and set opener “What’s It Gonna Be?” is a true rocker to turn up loud with the hood down in the sunshine.
The venue by now was tightly packed, and the lack of a photo pit made getting anything other than one jealously guarded space at the front challenging as the lights went down and Vintage Trouble took their place in the limelight. Within seconds, it was clear that the DGM honchos were right. It may not be what DGM claims to be about, but a band with this much energy and musical ability deserve an audience anywhere good music is celebrated. Vintage Trouble are Rhythm and Blues, pure and simple, but that isn’t all they are. They are masters of the art of putting on a show. Vocalist Ty Taylor is the long-lost lovechild of Cab Calloway, backed by the bastard offspring the Blues Brothers, left behind on their trail of destruction across America. Within minutes Taylor has called the crowd forward and is crowd surfing around the hall. He is non-stop, leaping, pirouetting, and sashaying… all simply adding visual style to the glorious vocals he delivers. Supporting him are guitarist Nalle Colt, bassist Rick Barrio Dill, and drummer Richard Danielson, along with new organist Brian London (on a trial, as Ty cheekily informs the crowd). Ty sporting a gleaming white suit (hence the thoughts of Cab Calloway in the Blues Brothers), the rest of the band nattily attired in a variety of fedoras, waistcoats and sharp suits, they look damn cool, and the playing is hot.
It’s Ty who refuses to let your eyes wander for just a second though. His intros are thoughtful and amusing in equal measure (at one point talking about how screwed up the world is he hears a shout of “F*** the Tories”, dissolves into giggles, wanders back to the mike and shouts “F*** Trump” with a look that is like a naughty schoolboy). His voice is soulful and melodic and his stage presence simply immense. He introduces a song Vintage Trouble have never played live before, “Don’t Stop Forever”, which is a treat for the ears, and introduces “Love Song To The World” as being “a song about love, but people think it’s about saving the planet. Which is cool, as we may get a Nobel Prize for a song about sex”. The set is full of the light and shade that defines Rhythm and Blues. Slow songs full of soul, and songs where it is impossible to stand still. No immunity from the infectious rhythm.
The highlights of the set? “Run like the River” stands out. Colt’s slide guitar is as dirty as a guitar sound can be, and the chorus is utterly infectious. Soon Ty is back in the crowd, surfing to the mixing desk, and carrying on the song from that improvised stage. A roadie helps him down, and he walks out of the door through the crowd. Puzzled faces turn to delight as he reappears on the balcony, walking along the precipice in front of the first row and leading the crowd from high above. Oddly, the other highlight that will live in my memory for a long time was what happened as the notes of the last song died away. Vintage Trouble took a theatrical bow at the front of the stage and then dropped into the audience, walking through and shaking hands or high fiving as they went. As they left the auditorium, a table and line of seats had been arranged, and each of the band took a seat and, still sweating and buzzing with adrenaline, signed anything presented, posed for photos, and talked to anyone who wanted to talk.
I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a set as much in my life. My cheeks hurt from smiling and my calves ached from moving to the beat (even when I was trying to take photos), but my overwhelming memory is the way in which Vintage Trouble showed the fans that a gig is a two way deal. We go to and give them energy, and they reflect it back. It amplifies and resonates, and becomes something truly special. Vintage Trouble have that down to a fine art, and I will be selling them to anyone I talk to about the gigs I cover for a very long time.
Review and images: Rob Wilkins