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Live Review: The Bellrays

A rock’n’soul ram-raid.

The Bellrays
(Image: © Alison Clarke)

The Bellrays don’t so much take the stage as combust. And this isn’t a brief, blinding flash but a sustained series of rock’n’roll detonations that rain down from the skies with devastating effect.

As Black Lightning explodes, it’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the band last hit these shores, a fact not lost on the force of nature that is frontwoman Lisa Kekaula. “Last time we played here, this was new!” she quips introducing the aching soul of Anymore.

This is one of the few moments of respite as, with the aid of guitarist Bob Vennum and the rhythm section of bassist Justin Andres and drummer Stefan Letrownik, Kekaula creates a wall of sound that rolls as hard as it rocks. They may have their origins in sunny California but the sound is pure Detroit as they effortlessly infuse soul with a cracking punk sensibility.

And while their own material gets its groove on in a way that recalls Led Zeppelin at their funkiest, that they inject Black Sabbath’s otherwise moribund Never Say Die with a degree of bump’n’grind never thought possible is testament to their vision. Likewise Blues For Godzilla that sounds like a band trying to outpace its audience and succeeding.

Sometimes you don’t realise how much you’ve missed bands until they’re back on the scene. Such are The Bellrays.

Julian Marszalek is the former Reviews Editor of The Blues Magazine. He has written about music for Music365, Yahoo! Music, The Quietus, The Guardian, NME and Shindig! among many others. As the Deputy Online News Editor at Xfm he revealed exclusively that Nick Cave’s second novel was on the way. During his two-decade career, he’s interviewed the likes of Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne, and has been ranted at by John Lydon. He’s also in the select group of music journalists to have actually got on with Lou Reed. Marszalek taught music journalism at Middlesex University and co-ran the genre-fluid Stow Festival in Walthamstow for six years.