Buck & Evans Live at Half Moon Putney
In the summer, I was lucky enough to take photographs at the Ramblin’ Man Fair festival in Maidstone, Kent. Optimistically scheduled against Blue Öyster Cult in an unassuming mid-afternoon slot on Saturday, the Outlaw Country stage presented a band I’d never heard of called Buck & Evans. Given the name and the stage, expectations didn’t run much beyond a bit of banjo plucking and that at least one of them would be chewing straw. How wrong I was. Buck & Evans turned out to be a powerhouse of soul-infused rock with a rhythm section of hard-edged granite; a guitar player of prodigious talent and a vocalist that genuinely made your jaw go slack. They were without doubt my highlight of the whole weekend. Sorry, Scorpions.
Photographing a festival feels like being the steel ball in an overly enthusiastic pinball machine – ricocheting off one stage to another, never in one place for very long. So, I only saw around 15 minutes of Buck & Evans before moving on and had been waiting for another opportunity to check them live. That opportunity presented itself last week at the historic Half Moon in Putney, where the band was promoting their new single release, Slow Train.
Hailing from South Wales, Buck & Evans (actually a four-piece: Chris Buck – guitar/vocals, Sally Ann Evans – Vocals/piano, Dominic Hill – bass and Bob Richards – drums/vocals) had brought a significant number of their home fan base with them on a hired bus: ‘A Fast Bus for a Slow Train’ and having played a small number of London gigs before, there were enough local people in the back room of the ‘Moon to make it clear the trip had been a most worthwhile one. Coming out to very warm applause Buck & Evans set straight about their task and let rip with more of what I’d heard at Ramblin’ Man Fair.
Buck, stage right, is an extraordinarily gifted guitarist who plays with a touch and feel that cannot be taught and that ought not reasonably to be expected of somebody in their early twenties. He also plays with a complete absence of unnecessary flash or apparent ego. Something else that ought not reasonably to be expected of somebody in their early twenties.
Richards and Hill at the back and stage left are a groove-making machine milled to the finest of tolerances. If you find you don’t move your feet to this stuff, there’s a good chance you’ve had them nailed to the floor. The rhythm section has been together for years, and it shows.
Sally Ann Evans meanwhile spent most of her time sat centre stage behind her Nord Electro 3. In instrumentation terms alone her role is less obvious, though the keys are certainly an integral part of the sound. It’s when she unleashes that voice that you really sit up and take notice. For some songs (notably Screaming – surely the most apt song title ever in the history of song titles), Evans stepped out from behind the keyboard and blasted the lines stood up with blood vessel busting levels of potency. Any toupee wearers in the audience ought to have been looking anxiously behind them.
But it’s not just about all-powerful vocals and incendiary guitar licks. The band played a beautiful cover of Otis Redding’s Dreams To Remember and songs such as Going Home and Trail Of Tears that formed the middle part of the set demonstrated wonderful control of dynamics. The new single Slow Train was obviously played and had a darker, more brooding feel; but my highlight was the main set closer Ain’t No Moonlight, a song sustained by a funky groove and a chord sequence at the end that sounds suspiciously like the closing section of Stairway To Heaven. Still, Page and Plant nicked pretty much everything they played. It’s only fair.
For the last third of the night, the band was joined on stage by the legend that is Bernie Marsden. Buck & Evans don’t really need celebrity endorsees but if you’re going to have one, it might as well be a founder member of one of Britain’s finest arena rock bands and the writer of a number 1 hit single.
Marsden is another of the good guys in the blues/rock fraternity and one happy to eschew the limelight in favour of being a team player. It was touching to see the modesty that the talents of Buck and Marsden showed as they traded licks in songs such as Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again and Freddie King’s Going Down. So keen were they not to outshine each other that the back seat they collectively took had them both in grave danger of toppling off the rear of the stage. “I’ve got strings older than him”, said Marsden in deference to Buck’s comparative early age.
Marsden’s closing message to the audience was a simple one: “Support these guys”. Given the reaction to the band this evening, it seems highly likely that an increasing number of us will continue to do just that.
A headline UK tour beckons in the early part of 2016. I would strongly urge anybody who likes their music delivered with swathes of skill, soul and passion to be a part of it. You’ll be so glad you did.
Live Review & Photography by Simon Reed. Simon has his won great site here: www.musicalpictures.co.uk
Buck & Evans Live at The Half Moon Putney: 6th November 2015