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The Bullfrog Blues Club
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Bullfrog Blues Dockyard Club Southsea - May 7th

Fresh from a tour supporting Kenny Wayne Shepherd and sporting an impressive array of equipment, the water tight quartet were in top form in front of the biggest turnout this year.

Strutting through a range of his own material with searing but always tasteful and fluent guitar, Ben is fulfilling his potential as one of the UK's major artists. After listening to an Eric Clapton compilation album at only 12 years old, 'Have You Ever Loved A Woman' left an indelible impression, and his stunning rendition showed just how far he has come. A protracted solo intro, with that breathy fragile vocal and a literal blur of fast hands, a teeming torrential crescendo dropping down to the tinkling keys of the talented Sam Mason.

Ben's own material is more structured in its execution, tight and with the occasional funky tinge, before a tour de force 'Hey Joe' where he stretched out again from an initial laid back vibe to staccato guitar and buzzing keys, again building to a crescendo with his vibrato vocal timbre fighting to rise above the overall sound, a feature which was the only damper on a splendid evening.

Incendiary playing back to studied, with more swirling keys before a pin drop solo saw him stepping away from the microphone on unamplified vocal and guitar before dramatically returning to full power with soaring fret work.

A terrific 'Starting All Over Again' preceded another favourite 'Mr Pitiful', a moody and atmospheric smouldering slab of soulful Blues with more scintillating fret work as he waved his hand across the guitar neck to coax every last ounce from the instrument.

A fervently demanded encore of 'Hanging In The Balance' from his first full release closed out a fine set. His evident hard work on honing his guitar skills has borne fruit but he is much more than a shredder, with light and shade in his orchestration and strong songs. It has been a privilege to watch his evolution and is further proof if any were needed, that there is no substitute for hard work and experience.

Bob Chaffey

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