Back Door Slam - Live at Buddy Guy’s Legends  Chicago IL

Monday, June 09, 2008

By James “Skyy Dobro” Walker

When is the last time an artist played a “Sold Out” show at Legends, other than Buddy Guy himself? Located in Chicago IL, Legends nightclub is now famous world wide for live blues music seven nights per week featuring the biggest names in the genre. That is the setting for a live show by Back Door Slam, a band of three barely-in-their-twenties British youths from the Isle of Man.

Their first two numbers gave a good taste of what the boys are all about, but the third song demonstrated why they are truly special. From their debut CD, “Roll Away,” track 3 “Gotta Leave” had a slow start that built in intensity across the number. Perhaps the best attribute of the band is the singing of Davy Knowles. Showing off some pretty good song-writing, too, Knowles sang, “Ooh, you must have got me CON-fused with some other man... / Tell me: how can I trust you when you can’t trust your self?” with clear, distinct enunciation that is rare. As the intensity welled up, so did the power of his vocals. That power was thoroughly exceeded by his mid-song guitar solo that featured a fantastic pyrotechnic sonic assault reflecting the mood of the protagonist’s anguish. Any lingering doubts I had about “too much hype” were gone, and I was just putty in their hands after that.

A previous sold-out show at Martyr’s in Chicago had gotten the word spreading: there is something special going on here; this is a do-not-miss group. Definitely on the Rock side of Blues-Rock, Back Door Slam also caught attention by appearing on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live late night program.

The club was filled with multiple generations, from twenty-somethings to baby-boomers. Each age group seems to have its own aspirations for the lads. The younger crowd loves the Rock edge they bring, and the older blues fans are hoping the blues-based music will bring new converts to the Blues similar to the way Stevie Ray Vaughan did.

Sponsored by WXRT radio, the early show started at 8:10 PM kicking off what might as well have been Day 5 of the Chicago Blues Festival, which had concluded the previous night with BB King. Getting right to the lightening quick guitar licks on original, “Too Late,” leader Davy Knowles played a blue Stratocaster through a Fender amp. Rounding out the trio were Adam Jones on bass and Ross Doyle on drums.

Between songs, Knowles commented, “It is a complete honor to be playing in such a prestigious place as the home of the blues [Legends] in the Home of the Blues [Chicago]. It seems pretty surreal right now!” Bass player Adam Jones was either in awe, or he just normally plays with a mainly emotionless face. Drummer Doyle’s youth was evident on his clean-shaven face revealing chubby cheeks that women were probably dying to pinch.

Later Davy said, “We visited the Chicago Blues Festival and finally got to see BB King last night. Anything we do here tonight will be inconsequential to that.” The crowd did NOT agree. In King’s honor, they introduced and then launched into “Riding With The King” by John Hiatt but recorded by BB King and Eric Clapton.

Other numbers performed were a ripping rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Hootchie Cootchie Man,” a surprising Crosby, Stills, and Nash cover, “Almost Cut My Hair,” a number played on a Gibson acoustic guitar about being on the road, a killer version of the album’s track 1 “Come Home,” and, following an explanation of how the band was named for a Robert Cray song, they played “Back Door Slam” from Cray’s “Time Will Tell” CD.

The set’s 10th song featured intense string burning on “Tear Down The Walls,” and to introduce number 11, Knowles said, “Here is some blues for ya. It is by Jimi Hendrix. We’re going to attempt ‘Red House.’” Needless to say, it was a great “attempt” full of soulful power like what can be seen on videos.

For their final song, the boys brought up a friend from “age 13” – Chicago bluesman Steve Arvey. As the story goes, Arvey had performed some eight yeas ago at an Isle of Man blues festival and also put on guitar workshops attended by the 13 year olds who were also performing there. A fast friendship formed and contact maintained through e-mails ever since. The affable Arvey kept referring to the band as “my boys.” They led each other through a wonderful version of Willie Dixon’s “What in the World” full of lick-trading and call and response.

Fans would not let them off without an encore in which they did two numbers. The first saw Davy on an un-amplified mandolin. Was he letting us down easy? Hell no! The second and final number was back to a Stratocaster electric, ear bleed intensity, balls out blast that also gave the bassist a solo, and the drummer did a unique rhythm, thunder-drum solo. WHEW!

Catch these rising stars soon – either on an internet video or at Naperville IL, Saturday, July 26. Check

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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