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McGREGOR BAND 100 Club, London
McGregor doesn't so much redefine rock as deconstruct it. Apart from
actually greeting her audience at the door, the partial sense of
disbelief was compounded as she was introduced on stage by Steve
Halliwell aka Emmerdale Farm's 'Zak' Bartholomew Dingle.
alluded to the huge musical potential he had spotted when first seeing
Chantel in Leeds some years ago and we weren't about to be disappointed.
Casting aside all the usual rock signifiers, the Bradford bombshell
(sorry, couldn't resist that) took the stage barefoot and in a full
blown summer dress and set about rewriting every rock cliché in the
Think of all
the pained expressions, all the grimaces and all the exaggerated shapes
ever thrown by your favourite rock guitar heroes. Then think of every
exclamatory yells, every pose and every macho gesture that ever
populated rock's historic landscape.
course of her two hour show Chantel binned them all. For this was rock
blues for the new age played by a musician born with an effortless
virtuosity, peppered by flights of incendiary guitar and flanked by
moments of poise, grace and fluidity.
she has plenty of time to find a signature sound and an identifiable
tone, she offered more than enough in terms of natural technique and
instinctive feel for light and shade - including the occasional use of
sustain - to stake her claim to being that rare quality in the
contemporary music world, virtually unique performer.
At times it
was hard to believe that this slight figure is capable of creating some
of most intense guitar phrases while conversely being able to quiet a
rock audience to the point of hushed reverence, as she switched from
electric to acoustic guitar to let her mellifluous voice soar round the
impressive was the way she brought her own material such as Peter Green
tinged instrumental 'Cat's Song' and the powerful bluster and catchy
hook of 'Free Falling' to sit quietly alongside the best of Bonnie Rait
('I Can't Make You Love Me') and Stevie Nicks ('Landslide').
her understated persona is built on the fundamentals of technical
excellence she's spontaneous enough to make light of the unexpected, in
this case a collapsing chair at the front of the stage, offering a
cursory, 'are you OK'? and a giggle before getting back to business.
Chantel breaks the mould by crossing the divide from Gracie Fields to
Steve Vai, through a combination of a broad Yorkshire accent, an
occasional shake of her mane and a truckfull of notes - as on Joe
Satriani's 'Up In The Sky', Blind Faith's 'Had To Cry Today' and later
on Hendrix's 'Red House' - her musical acumen is simply too impressive
to play second fiddle to her bubbly personality.
proved to be as expansive with her soloing on Bonamssa's 'Mountain Time'
as she was abrasive on closing, bone crunching rendition of Tull's 'New
Day Yesterday'. The latter would surely have brought a rueful smile to
Ian Anderson's face. Of course Bonamassa role as a musical conduit looms
large over the new generation of Rock/Blues players ranging from Chantel
to Virgil & the Accelerators, all of whom seem to have been caught up in
the JB led rebirth of British blues. But it is Chantel's ability to make
something new out of the familiar that provides the integral part of her
She also has
stage craft, sweeping from left to right and back again, smiling
briefly, occasionally twirling elegantly, but always coming back to
reinvent a song with an interesting solo.
between the flurries of notes, the speed, the dexterity and occasional
moments of intensity, came a few unexpected nuggets.
playing on 'Sloe Gin' was far better than her singing, but the best
number of the night proved to be Robin Trower's languid but
smoulderingly engaging 'Day Dream'.
leant into the song with an unhurried, precise style, and built up a
mesmerising solo full of a warm toned notes on the back of an acute
sense of dynamics, as she finally brought the piece to a rousing climax.
being a post modern rocker, she made light of the moment and the
delightful whoops of the crowd to offer another warm smile, a cursory
'Ta' and headed towards the most acutely deconstructed moment of the
night, announcing, 'we've got one more to do before the encore'.
It wasn't so
much a case of being presumptuous as the primacy of her buoyant
enthusiasm over convention. She simply wanted to play more. Chantel had
won over her audience on this her debut London show and there will
surely be many more to come.
by Pete Feenstra
Photo by Prakash Acharya
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