It seemed like a ‘dream team’ bill – King King supported by Laurence Jones, and like all dreams, it never made it to the cold light of day. In it’s place came the news that suppport slot for King King’s Harmonie gig last week would go to another shining star of British Bluesrock guitar Ben Poole. Many readers will have seen Poole at the Yardclub in Cologne, some even possibly as guitarist a few years back with Dani Wilde. For me it was a first chance to catch the man live and add a question mark to the title of Ben Poole’s latest cd release ‘Time Has Come’.
Holland, UK, Holland again, Germany. The ping-pong life of a gigging musician brings Ben Poole and band to Bonn Harmonie for the first time and marks the final date of this European tour from the man from Coventry.
Although I hadn’t seen Ben Poole live before he has been on my musical radar for a number of years and indeed both of his discs have been reviewed here on this website. In 2013 I noted his debut ‘Let’s go upstairs’ disc was as much a songwriters album as a guitarists – which was surprising for someone who gets most publicity for recommendations from the likes of Jeff Beck and Gary Moore. Back in a live setting though, and particularly with ace fret-bender Alan Nimmo to follow, the music is most heavily under the microscope.
Comparisons between Poole and the main-act are inevitable. Even before the music starts this evening I feel like I’ve suffered some sort of blow to the head. Double vision. Two Ludwig drum-kits , two Hammond Organs… Thankfully only one Ben Poole steps onto the stage so my eyes are alright after all. The sound though isn’t. It seems guitar heavy and keyboard light. I can see Stevie Watts hitting the keys but that’s about all. maybe that’s due to the big monitor immediately in front of me onstage from which Ben Poole seems to be sprouting like a giant flower – or maybe, given his stubbly cheeks, giant cactus.
I’m hoping the sound will improve, and thankful that the show start was put back a half hour to give Poole a decent time onstage to prove his mettle – I’ve heard so many complimentary reports of the Man that I’m praying for a killer show tonight. The cheeks might be spiky, but please, not the music too! Thankfully it settles down and becomes butter-smoothe even on a soul-laden version of ‘The question why’. It’s a gloriously Peter Greeny number that floats along and after the rocky start I can almost hear the cogs click into place and Poole and Band shift up a gear. Stevie Watts gets a chance to shine and if the mix isn’t completely in his favour it’s an enjoyable solo all the same. ‘Lying to me’ is the other side of Poole’s guitar genius – a rocker that gives plenty of room to flex those guitar hero muscles. Light or heavy touch – this is the go-to guy for the job.
I’m reminded of my discovery reviewing the first disc that Ben Poole is a pretty good songwriter too, especially on the gentler numbers that give his set a good dynamic and prove his versatility. ‘Longing for a woman’ is an example of that delicate touch, but it flourishes most in the sets standout number: “Dedicated to one of my all-time heroes, Gary Moore”. Moore spent the last years of his life living in Brighton which is how he came to hear that there was a boy living locally who could play rather well named Ben Poole. The said Ben Poole had played Moore’s signature tune ‘Parisienne Walkways’ as part of his A Level music exam, perhaps daring to dream that fate would perhaps someday put him in the same city and on the same stages as his hero.
Tonight, with the Master gone, it’s up to his apprentice to carry the flame; and Ben Poole does so in jaw-dropping style on the ballad ‘Time might never come’. Each note is teased, hand-crafted, out of Poole’s Les Paul with a perfectly understated counterpoint performance from Stevie Watt’s on Hammond. Some twelve minutes of musical heaven. The sort of moments that are why you buy concert tickets in the first place – to hear great music beautifully played. Mostly you come back realizing that the perfection you heard in your head was unrealistic. Tonight, and on this track, it wasn’t.
“Thank you for coming out to live music and allowing me to make my living playing guitar” Ben Poole’s words earlier in the show came back to me. Thank YOU for playing guitar for us Ben Poole. The time has certainly come for a full set at the Harmonie with Ben Poole headlining!