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Eric Gales - Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago, 13/12/2014

  by Lisa Torem

published: 9 / 2 / 2015

Eric Gales - Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago, 13/12/2014


Lisa Torem watches rising blues star Eric Gales play an impresive set at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago

Eric Gales grew up with a team of older, musical brothers and, not surprisingly, became a teen prodigy himself. He hit the studio in 1991 with his debut album and by 1994 had teamed up with Carlos Santana at the Woodstock Festival. His album “That’s What I Am’ (MCA) featured searing instrumental work and heartfelt balladry. By 2008, he had created a definite buzz when performing in tribute to his hero, Jimi Hendrix. His new album, Good for Sumthin’ (Cleopatra) was produced by Raphael Saadiq, who also brought out the warmth and finesse in Johnny Legend’s studio work. It consists of a dozen blistering cuts that pull from not just rock and blues, but funk and R & B, proving that Gales is not only a virtuoso onstage but also an all-around appreciator of the past. It includes a cover of the Stones’ ‘Miss You’ done with his distinguished stamp and a flaming duet with popular Zakk Wylde on ‘Steep Climb’ and Eric Johnson on e2 (note for note). I saw Eric play at Legends on one leg of a recent North American tour. Before he even got on stage men in the front rows were screaming, “Jimi, Jimi.” He’s obviously drawn comparisons to the late superstar and, traditionally, ends his set with several Hendrix favourites. Of course, that’s a lot to live up to—but Gales, thankfully, rose to the occasion, and made each rendition his own. The set began with ‘Make It There.’ He employed lots of wah and pushed his torso into the performance like a strip of bacon sizzling on a frying pan. His deep, groaning voice immediately recalls Hendrix but his style includes a lot more jamming and funk. One online fan said, “This cat is off the chain. Everything he plays sounds spontaneous.” I couldn’t agree more. He played a bunch of songs from 2010’s ‘Relentless’. ‘The Change in Me’ had an infectious boogie underbelly and Gale’s screaming solo work nicely contrasted his soft, lyrical exposition. Another gem from that record, ‘Block the Sun’, featured heavy distortion and shattering bravado. “You—you feel so cold/You can hide but you can’t run/‘Cause you, yeah, block out the sun.” Gale’s style of singing is so genuine that you want to hug him as he sings. He conveys a deep sense of urgency. Then his solo spun into an intoxicating orbit of more funk, distortion and piercing scale tones. Super crisp percussion courtesy of drummer, Nick Hayes, and sophisticated lines by bassist, Cesar Oviedo, convinced us that these players sincerely have Eric Gale’s back. ‘Sea of Bad Blood’ really shook the house after a few space-aged bars of introduction. Gales launched into an exotic melody, which contrasted well with the effects. There was plenty of room for expansion and it soon turned into a blue-flamed jam. Gales was elated to play at Buddy Guy’s classy Legends and made it a point to celebrate the master guitarist with a tribute song, ‘Buddy Guy’. This was another chance to get to know Gales better. He’s an all around sociable man who truly enjoys interacting with his audience so much that at one point in the evening he kneeled on the floor and nearly wept after he saw a female fan with tears in her own eyes. ‘Wings of Rock and Roll’ was another evocative weeper, which he played with purity and passion and in the tradition of the Delta Blues greats. “Lord, give me some kind of sign everything’s going to be okay/I’m not asking for a miracle but I’ve been praying every day.” “Good for Sumthin’ is from his brand new album and it’s got an unbeatable hook and singable lyrics. Eugene Gales, Eric's older brother, is the lyricist. ‘1019’ refers to the house number on Rosewood Street: “That’s where it all started, y’all.” Deeply personal, the story is about his hardworking father and childhood poverty, and it wasn’t until the unreal instrumental hook transitioned into a fun rhythmic break that one could catch a breath. Here he was joined by the beautiful vocalist (and his wife and manager) La Donna Gales and singer Tyrone Thomas. They served up some delightful dance steps whilst embellishing the positive theme with clever sound effects and harmonies. ‘You Give Me Life’ off the new album is full of grace and spirit. “"No more doubts/My heart is my home," Gales sings with abandon.“The hollow ground we’re walking on, it wasn’t built for two,” he lays it on the line. It’s an aggressive, angry, confusing world but the hook brings us hope: “You give me life like the stars in the night.” The band gave their all again for the Jimi Hendrix portion of the show. ‘Purple Haze’ was an absolute killer -- Gales could not and did not hold back. He pulled out all of his tricks, bells, whistles and vocal incantations in an extended explosion of solo work and trading with his comrades. By this time, all eyes were glued and the lucky fans in the front of the house were swooning. To the grateful cries of “Jimi, Jimi, Jimi,” he returned to play an incredible version of ‘Voodoo Chile’. After hearing new album tracks ‘1019’, ‘Good for Sumthin’ and ‘You Give Me Life’, Gale’s older hits and his Hendrix jewels, it was easy to understand why Gales has become such an in-demand contemporary guitarist/vocalist/writer and showman. It won’t be long until those voices in the back will be yelling, “Eric, Eric, Eric.”

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Eric Gales - Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago, 13/12/2014

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