As an English Blues-rock fan Danny Bryant has been high on my list of must- sees for a year or so now. Wednesday night gave me the chance when he stopped off on his latest tour in Bonn for the first time. It turned out that he was as pleased to be at the Harmonie as I was to see him there…
Maybe it was the fact that I saw ten people on the same stage last week at the DVD filming for Thorbjorn Risager. Whatever the reason, the same stage looked ultra empty this evening, even taking into account this was a trio playing. At least the auditorium itself wasn’t empty. A pleasantly large crowd in fact had made their way to Endenich considering this was a mid-week gig from a newcomer to these parts.
Danny Bryant is a heavily built man but, rather like Scotsman Alan Nimmo from King King, a man who seems to possess the fragile and nimble hands of a surgeon. Dissecting each and every note with a perfect incision of his fingers or pick, Bryant paces around the stage with a questioning look on his face that says “Is this the note you wanted to hear?” as he momentarily meets your gaze. More often than not it is EXACTLY the note you want to hear though – this man knows his way around a fretboard.
Kicking off with ‘Prisoner of the Blues’, the frenetic opening track of 2013’s ‘Hurricane’ CD it was clear from the off that we would be hearing a guitarist with feeling. Throughout the evening Bryant varied the pace of his playing. Not for him the all out frenzy for two hours of Poppa Chubby. Bryant varies pace and volume from the electric folk of Dylan’s ‘Girl from the North Country’, to Willie Dixon’s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, to the good time boogie of Hound dog Taylor’s ‘Give me back my Wig’ with ease. His harmonics playing on ‘North Country’ was simply sublime.
By the time we arrive at the chunky Hard Rock groove of ‘Heartbreaker’ to finish the second set we’ve been on a guitar-string driven tour of all that’s great about playing electric guitar plain and simple. I realize half way through the set why the stage seems so empty. It’s not the lack of musicians, or the missing stage carpet, or the lack of monster Marshall amp stacks. What’s missing is the quadruple rows of foot-pedals that seem to be under the toes of every guitarslinger these days.
There’s excellent backing from Bryant’s bassman Alex Phillips and his drummer – whose face is so fresh to the band I couldn’t track his name (anyone out there can help?). Both men followed Bryant’s constant changes of pace and dynamics with measured ease.
Later at the souvenir stand Danny Bryant is talking about his friend and hero Walter Trout. When Walter was one shaking step from playing his next gig alongside Jimi and Stevie Ray in the great blues festival in the sky it was Bryant who took Walter’s band out on tour to raise money for Trout. It’s certainly true that you can hear Walter Trout in Bryant’s vocal delivery and his concentrated style on the guitar. It’s also quite plain too though that Danny Bryant has the same down to earth and concerned manner that makes his mentor such a towering figure of respect in the Blues community.
On Facebook next day there’s a post by Danny Bryant with a small grainy cellphone shot of him on the Harmonie stage and the caption “I’ve always wanted to play this venue, and it didn’t disappoint!” I might add that Danny Bryant didn’t disappoint either. Two encores, A meaty version of ‘Knockin on Heavens Door’ and a rootsy, bluesy ‘Good Time Woman’ rounded off an evening that signaled hopefully the first of many visits by the big man from Royston.