Academy 3. Manchester, 31/3/2022
published: 12 /
With photos by Andrew Twambley, Paul Kimber finds watching blues musician Eric Gales, who has been described by Joe Bonamassa as “one of the best, if not the best, guitar player in the world”, a totally encapsulating experience.
On the 31st March 2022, I was invited out for a gig, one of my very first outings in these hopefully, post-Covid times. Generally for nights out I’d most mostly choose to go to techno or house events, so being asked to see a blues rock musician that I was unfamiliar with didn’t initially seem that appealing. I, however, quickly found out that Eric Gales had quite a reputation and had been described by Joe Bonamassa as “one of the best, if not the best, guitar player in the world.”
Despite my love for underground dance music, I have seen some great guitarists such as Mark Knopfler and The Black Crowes. In the mid-nineties I saw Eric Clapton play Birmingham Arena with everyone sitting down in an uncomfortable seat, security guards pacing up and down and with very little atmosphere and a slightly uncomfortable vibe. It was no fault of the great man, but still was an ultimately disappointing experience.
Not so at Manchester Academy 3. This is the antithesis of stadium venues. I’m told its capacity is 350, but the numbers don’t matter. It is an intimate venue, like you’ve been invited to a private party… it makes you feel special!
The room was full, but not crowded. There was still enough space to move around a bit and not feel like you were invading others’ space. Perfect.
So, who is this Eric Gales, supposedly best guitarist in the world, that I’m now embarrassed to say I’d never heard of until a few days ago? Well, he hails from Memphis in the US of A, he’s also known as Raw Dawg, and he was a child prodigy, born on the 29 October 1974. making him currently 47 years old. He has a reputation for being the next Jimi Hendrix, a reputation that is no doubt helped in part by Eric playing a right-handed guitar, upside down, left-handed, just like `the legendary Hendrix. Eric has recorded nineteen studio albums since his debut in 1991, so he’s already had a long productive career, unlike so many young prodigies who burn out and fade away.
Watching Eric play live just a few of metres in front of me was mesmerising. He looked like a proper rock star front man should, wearing a glittering black shirt, trousers with a galaxy of stars on them, big gold chains and watch, hip hop style, and a baseball cap. The bass player, ‘Smoke Face’, had a red and white plastic face mask, as if from a horror film,which was slightly creepy, and then white smoke/dried ice came billowing out of the mask, adding to the atmosphere. There were two drummers, one being Eric’s wife. I love two drummers, (I was a teenage Adam and the Ants fan). Both were rock steady, and created s a real wall of bouncing. pulsing sound, There was also a keyboard player, who was excellent. The musicians were top draw, an incredibly tight band.
What was surprising though was not how fantastic a guitar player Eric was, because he was phenomenal, the best I’ve seen for sure. The best in the world? Probably. Effortless. A man at the top of his game. The surprise was how he wanted to engage with the crowd, warmly chatting between tracks as though the people in the room were old friends of his.
Eric created a warm, loving vibe in the room. He was totally authentic, and blessed with a deep, well- honed voice, as well as a super talented wife, who also sang as well as she drummed, and she sounded like Aretha Franklin/Chaka Khan. They must be the most talented couple around.
Eric played some tracks from his new album, ‘Crown’, such as ‘The Storm’, ‘Survivor’, ‘Stand Up’ and ‘I Want My Crown’, (I’d recommend a listen) as well as some older tracks. I wasn’t familiar with his tracks before I went, which didn’t matter. I not only found myself getting lost in Eric’s fantastic guitar playing (he used an effects box to good use, making his guitar sound like a trumpet at one point)) but becoming thoughtful due to his insightful, heartfelt lyrics. What a great night!
I came out of the venue blown away. I asked myself, why the hell is Eric not better known and playing much bigger venues? But I’m so glad I got to see him at a small intimate venue that left my feeling personally touched and moved by a genuine artist, the best guitarist in the world.
Photos by Andrew Twambley
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