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100 Club, 9 January 2009

Tony McPhee, Groundhogs, photo by Noel Buckley
Photo by Noel Buckley

You know you're in for a good evening when you have two quite different classic rock bands, both 3 piece, that appeal to a similar crowd. A good crowd too.

Both bands have never really gone away over the last 40 odd years, the loyalty of the fans as notable as the continued strength of the music. This was a kind of double header, with both bands given pretty much equal stage time.

It was a pleasure too to be introduced to Stray's Del Bromham before the gig; a very decent guy to say the least, and a great sense of humour too.

Del Bromham, Stray, photo by Noel Buckley
Photo by Noel Buckley

Stray opened, with a very enjoyable blend of classic British hard rock that touches on both prog and blues, and a very punchy song kind of set up.

'Houdini' opened, and by the time we got to 'After The Storm' and 'Jericho' the crowd was a very fair size. Vocalist/Guitarist Del plays a mean riff and a mean solo too, and interjects plenty of humour between songs. At times his vocals nod towards Robert Plant, in the non wailing way.

We were then treated to three tracks from the new album, ‘Valhalla'. This album sounds great but will, at Del's own admission, surprise many fans. Still classic Stray, '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue', 'Free At Last' and 'Harry Fair' do nod at mid 80s Cult. The band closed with 'I Believe It', 'Buying Time' and 'All In Your Mind', so the set list covered a good spread.

Soon after we were treated to Tony McPhee and his Groundhogs. The band were originally formed as a backing band for John Lee Hooker in the early 60s and they're still going strong in their own right. Tony is the elder statesman of British blues rock and his guitar work, mixing riffs and extended solos,  and pleasantly gravelly vocals making for a superb sound.

Tony McPhee, Groundhogs, photo by Noel Buckley
Photo by Noel Buckley

The first part of the set included 'Expressman', 'Eccentric man', 'Garden', 'No More Doggin'' and 'Still a fool', not a bad moment, And it wasn't long before fans were shouting out for 'Split' and 'Cherry Red'. The band duly obliged with 'Split', pts 1,2 & 4. Put a smile on my face at least.

'Natchez Burning'. 'Mistreated', 'Cherry Red' 'Meet Me In The Bottom' and Groundhog Blues' completed the set with much aplomb, the fans clearly appreciating the extended guitar work. A set full of classics and more.

The impromptu encore of '3744 James Road' finished a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Review by Joe Geesin

Photos by Noel Buckley

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