Yes, that energetic youngster jumping with his Les Paul on the 3songsbonn logo top left of the website really is Jason Barwick. It comes from an iconic Rockpalast Cologne gig in 2009. Joe Bonamassa pulled the plug on TV crews, and as a result upcoming Grimsby band The Brew got their whole set broadcast. The rest, as they say, is history. The boy has grown to a man and the hair to over his shoulders, but the energy level has remained constantly at a scale of ten from ten as Tuesday’s gig at The Harmonie proved.
It always strikes me as odd. The set-up of microphones – either side of the stage, but nothing in the middle. For photography purposes though it’s a Godsend, allowing me to get shots of the whole band from one position without a stand to block the path of my Nikon. Best of all I can get shots of the drummer centre-stage. This proves to be especially fortuitous later on when the lights go down and come up again in a dull and dim red over Jason Barwick and Tim Smith yet drummer Kurtis Smith is caught in a 90+ minute crossfire of bright light. Literally ‘The Spotlight Kid”. Not that the gig is any less sweaty for the two ‘Men in Red’ – these guys WORK!
Don’t take that work for granted either. There is many a band that barely breaks sweat or looks at/talks to it’s audience for 90 minutes. I remember not so long ago waiting three songs before a highly rated British band in front of me seemed to acknowledge our existence before them. Not so the highly talented British band in front of me tonight.
Jason Barwick likes to post that he’s looking forward to ‘melting faces’ at forthcoming shows and if the ferocity of a Les Paul could strip paint from a wall it would be Barwick doing the handywork. much of his playing is as much a sound carpet as a guitar solo. An eternal search for new sounds. It’s s search that was already underway at that 2009 show when Barwick was very much a guitar wizard in the making and that was his valuable but sole contribution. In those days it was Tim Smith who handled the vocals, but in 2017 Barwick has really developed a rock voice that’s every bit as fiery as his guitar playing.
It would be easy with two whirlwind young guys to his left for Tim, father of drummer Kurtis, to take it easy on bass guitar but ‘take it easy’ clearly is not a phrase known to the man. I’m constantly stepping back from my position in front of centre stage as a long plank of Fender Rosewood whistles inches from my forehead. I hardly have time to duck before Smith is already back with said bass guitar in his stage corner. Muhammad Ali couldn’t float more quickly in his prime.
If Tim Smith is not your average quiet bassist, then son Kurtis is certainly not your average ‘stick behind the kit and keep the beat’ drummer either. He’s always ready to join in the onstage banter, make and take jokes, not to mention pull faces as he keeps that beat. I’ve seen (more than) enough 15 minute drum solos in my 70’s youth to know that nine from ten of them would send myself and half the audience to the bar out of boredom. No chance of that with this guy, especially when he plays literally ‘hands on’ in the style of hero John Bonham.
With Barwick taking the vocals it seems a lot of the older numbers have gone now, but there are still gems from my favourite Brew disc, 2009’s ‘A Million Dead Stars’. The title track is of course always a killer live, and I still love to hear ‘Every gig has a neighbour’ which, as Tim points out, is a very appropriate number in Bonn with it’s somewhat draconian sound limits. He asks later what I thought of the sound and was seemingly disappointed that they couldn’t ‘Turn it up’ to the max. Judging by the smiling faces and dancing feet, no one in front of the stage was thinking such thoughts. Scorching new numbers like ‘Name on a bullet’ couldn’t have packed more punch than the aforementioned Mr Ali – even with more decibels.
Over ninety minutes of pure, sweaty, 70’s style progressive rock at it’s finest. You won’t find a band that plays with more energy and a greater sense of fun than Jason, Tim and Kurtis. Great music, great people and great fun. The Brew have all the right ingredients for a super night out. Look for a new disc from the band next Spring but really and truly The Brew are at their loud, proud and hard rocking best on a stage. Don’t miss them, and long may they melt faces!