The Apex, Bury St Edmunds June 20, 2022
by Adam Aiken
Elles Bailey opens the evening splendidly, with her set that mixes blues, folk and rock punctuated by heartfelt ad-libs about her music and the state of the world generally.
With guitarist Joe Wilkins making up the other half of a tight duo tonight, acoustic takes on songs such as Help Somebody and the cynical Medicine Man work perfectly.
It’s all helped by Bailey’s rapport with the audience as she takes the time to talk at length about the meanings behind her songs.
Such is her habit of chatting for England that she runs out of time before completing her set, but that’s not a problem for us – it’s made it much more memorable than if she’d simply ploughed through all her songs in a hurry.
And it’s not like there’s not something else for us to look forward to, either…
Despite his genius as a musician, Walter Trout comes across as somewhat understated. There’s no big brash fancy-dan rock-god OTT stuff. He looks like a regular bloke who’s wandered in off the street and just wants to play the blues with his mates.
And Trout’s persona is reflected in the set as a whole as he and his band deliver an unpretentious but masterful performance.
His travails during the mid-2010s are well documented, and the fact that he’s even with us – let alone on such fine form – is remarkable.
He refers to that dark period on a couple of occasions tonight, including making a heartfelt plea for us all to sign up as potential organ donors.
But there are flashes of humour in there, too, as well as bucketloads of the blues at its best.
A couple of the standout songs are from 2020’s Ordinary Madness album. Wanna Dance is a nice early upbeat number that sounds better than it did in the studio, while the slower All Out Of Tears is one of the more tender moments of the night.
Meanwhile, the harmonies and incessant groove of Almost Gone make it one of the set’s highlights.
It’s topped, though, by something that’ll be remembered by the blues aficionados in attendance for some time, with Trout bringing out Chantel McGregor to join him on We’re All In This Together.
It’s a moment that spans the generations with Trout and McGregor mutually in awe of each other as they take it in turns to lead.
By the time the evening comes to a close with Playin’ Hideaway, we’ve been taken through the full gamut of the blues.
When you consider that Trout had to learn how to play music all over again when he finally got out of hospital, it makes performances such as this even more impressive.
The likes of Bailey and McGregor confirm that the blues is alive and kicking. But tonight’s real hero is the headliner – and there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.