When this writer revealed he was planning to see Doyle Bramhall II, someone actually asked, “So… what was the first movie like?” Which goes to show the blues rocker is far from a household name.
The Texan has worked with Eric Clapton, Roger Waters and Sheryl Crow, enough of a pedigree to ensure the place is packed. Presumably, having Rich Robinson playing alongside him also helps to swell the interest, attracting Black Crowes devotees. Oh, and his girlfriend is Hollywood A lister Renée Zellweger. But there’s no atmosphere at all. Even brilliant interludes, such as an astonishing performance of Hendrix’s Gypsy Boy, are greeted by no more than polite applause.
But Bramhall deserves so much more. You can appreciate why he’s been compared to Stevie Ray Vaughan. His skill and dexterity are spectacular, and his connection to Robinson is almost telepathic: here are two musicians born to communicate.
The set-up is very low key. No huge show, just a collection of fine musicians who plug into small amps and enjoy feeding off each other’s energy. It cries out for a club setting, when this performance would have been devastating. Coupling classic covers with originals like Problem Child, Bramhall should have created an electric intensity. But it all falls flat, thanks to an audience who clearly feel actually enjoying themselves might disrupt their air of chic cool.
Robinson is obviously in the band for more than star impact. It feels like he’s come home, and he gets plenty of opportunity to stretch out, complementing Bramhall’s more technical approach with his own flair.
Given a 45-minute set on a festival stage, in front of an active crowd, this band would be sensational. It’s not the band, their repertoire or ability that lets down the evening – it’s the waxwork immobility of the gathered throng.