The Jon Amor Blues Group – Gig Review

Telford’s Warehouse, Chester, 03/11/12

A rainy night in Chester, just a stones throw outside the ancient Romano/Mediaeval city walls stands Telford’s Warehouse, venue for tonight’s visit from ex-Hoax guitarist Jon Amor and his deceptively titled ‘Blues Group’.

The Jon Amor Blues Group

For the previously uninitiated, The Hoax were one of the UK’s most successful Blues exports of the 1990’s, sounding nothing whatsoever like the Blues/Rock dirge music devolution that dominates British ‘Blues’ in the 21st Century.

The Hoax seemed to have it all; a great front-man, strong song writers, youth, natural swing and a wholesome understanding of the genre they were taking on. After disbanding in 1999 (reforming for a successful 20th anniversary tour in 2010), guitarist Jon Amor embarked on a solo career, culminating with present project, The Jon Amor Blues Group.

Tonight’s gig promoted latest album, ‘Villa Del Vibro’, which seems to mix a heavy 1960’s vibe with Dr Feelgood aggression, delivered by the mechanical methodology of a modern, British, Indie Rock band. Possibly the furthest away from ‘Blues’ music as one could get – which is not necessarily a bad thing – this album struggles to find a direct connection with Music Of Black Origin.  Indeed, critics do cite a Feelgood correlation plus The Black Keys as marker points, but the overall musical feel comes from these shores rather than from across the Atlantic.

There’s plenty of angst, showmanship and controlled aggression on stage tonight, possibly fuelled by the younger contingent who make up the nucleus of the Amor band. The song writing is good, delivery passionate, but something very one-dimensional unfolds as the set progresses and it becomes painfully obvious that this unit lack the swing of an American band – or even the band that gave Amor his original launch pad. Everything is delivered with a stiff, English sensibility which may of course be deliberate, or a just side-effect from playing with younger musicians, still fresh with an abundance of angular musical energy naturally associated with bands in their age group; think The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Enemy, The Pigeon Detectives (and even The Talking Heads) as style pointers and a reason for the small field of rhythmic vision. Of course, this may all be very deliberate and part of the Amor master plan, but it makes for a very limiting aural experience.

At times, Amor’s guitar sound overdrives into 70’s Gibson territory, almost with a ring of the AC/DC wall of sound, but without any of the Aussie swing. This refusal to deviate from the stiffness of a Viagra enhanced porn stars genitalia becomes increasingly irritating as the gig unfolds. There are some great songs hiding behind what may be intentional limitations in delivery, but it feels like visiting a buffet table festooned with nothing but M&S Ham sandwiches and salt & vinegar crisps. Variety doesn’t seem to be the goal here and it’s a crying shame, because Amor is more than capable of satisfying a wider musical palate. The musicians and songs make for great ingredients, but the recipe book stops at page 4.

After nearly an hours worth of waiting for something more challenging, the now heavy rainfall over Chester starts to become a tempting prospect over the singular song delivery my ears yearn escape from. It is a reluctant decision to make an earlyish exit; but it’s equally difficult to reconcile the feelings of increased potential disappointment by choosing to stay.

The British Blues scene forever needs a kick in the ass and Jon Amor has an outstanding pedigree to put the boot in where it’s needed. Somehow, going back to a white, English European feel seems like a backward step, when there are hundreds of bands nowhere near as well qualified, already flogging their sub-standard wares in the same rut.

Maybe next time?

© @thedrumdoctoruk