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Kris Barras Band

Artist: Kris Barras Band, South Of Salem

Venue: Wolverhampton, KK's Steelmill

Date: 13th April 2024


"Barras channelled his inner Gary Moore during an emotionally spellbinding guitar solo, and I think these two songs would have been worth the ticket price alone… they were that good."

 
© Dave Bott
© Dave Bott

I have become quite a fan of KK’s Steelmill in Wolverhampton, since my first visit in the early part of 2023. It is just an hour from home in the car (M6 traffic allowing) and the sound and spectacle has always been preferable to the Academy venues in Manchester. With two of my favourite bands on the same bill, it was a complete no-brainer to jump in the car and make the journey once more.


South Of Salem have been my most-watched live band during the last two years and their high-energy performances have never disappointed. Despite seeing them four times already in recent months, I was still looking forward to another session with the Bournemouth-based five-piece. The recent ‘Death Of The Party’ album has never been far away from the CD player (and turntable), yet I still believe the recorded output has never captured the essence of the band when they play live. After a short intro it was straight into ‘Vultures’, the opening song from the new album. KK’s has quite a large stage, but every inch was covered during the first song alone. From the photo pit it was difficult to keep track of proceedings, so after ‘Static’ and ‘Let Us Prey’ I retreated to watch the rest of the show in more comfort. ‘Made To Be Mine’, ‘Hellbound Heart’ and ‘Left For Dead’ followed in quick succession and the energy levels never dipped. ‘Cold Day In Hell’ and ‘Jet Black Eyes’ brought things to a close, but judging by the number of SOS shirts around me, I think for some they could have played all night. Being the support act meant the set was truncated, yet eight songs and forty minutes was still so good, and it was hard to imagine how Kris Barras was going to follow it.


Kris Barras has been on my radar since the full-length debut ‘Lucky 13’, in 2016. Each release has seen the sound move gradually away from the mainly Blues-based debut. The result being that the new ‘Halo Effect’ is out-and-out Hard Rock. During a recent interview Barras informed me that his musical influences were all of a heavy persuasion, so it was somewhat inevitable that he should finally move in that direction himself. Opening with ‘Who Needs Enemies’ from 2022’s ‘Death Valley Paradise’ was a clear statement of intent and a showcase for some consummate musicianship. ‘Unbreakable’, ‘Dead Horses’, ‘Savages’ and ‘These Voices’ were all in-your-face and the heavier musical style is really suited to the way Barras attacks a show.


The sound was excellent and highlighted just how tight the band are. ‘Hourglass’ and ‘Secrets’ continued the trend and then Barras decided to take a walk through the crowd, during a hard-hitting ‘Devil You Know’. Barras’s partner in crime, Josiah Manning, then put down his guitar and took his place behind a small keyboard set-up. The stripped-back ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ raised hairs on the arms and neck and showed just how good a singer Barras really is. This was followed by ‘Watch Over Me’, again featuring just Barras and Manning. Barras channelled his inner Gary Moore during an emotionally spellbinding guitar solo, and I think these two songs would have been worth the ticket price alone… they were that good. There were then some extended jams to bring the main set to a close, with the band locked in and well into their stride. ‘My Parade’ and ‘Hail Mary’ (naturally) brought the night to an end and the rush to the merchandise began.


I was then fortunate to see Barras again, just two days later, at an intimate acoustic in-store event in Liverpool. Obviously there to promote the new album, the six-song acoustic set again brought home just how good a vocalist and songwriter he is, and how well he works with Manning.


There are just so many high-quality UK artists around right now and the musical climate has never seemed healthier.


 

Review & Photos: Dave Bott

 

Gallery: All photos © Dave Bott (used with kind permission)


 

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