Wednesday night gigs in Exeter can be a little hit and miss, from experience more miss and less hit but we had heard that there was a band coming down to the Phoenix Arts Centre in Exeter to demonstrate their skills and that we NEEDED to be there, who was I to argue!
We rocked up at the venue and found the terrace bar absolutely rammed, I’ll be honest and say that we’d never heard of the headline act at all and were quickly firing up Facebook and Twitter to see what we could learn in the 30 mins before the first act took to the stage.
Brother Strut are a 12 legged funk, blues and soul machine that put the ‘P’ in PARTY, members of the band have played previously alongside such heavyweights as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and the late great Amy Winehouse. Collectively, they have performed on records that have sold more than half a BILLION copies across the planet, read that again folks, HALF A BILLION, I’m sure you’ll agree that these stats are more than impressive! We were now getting rather nervous and excited as being in the same room as these legends and could wait no longer for their set.
There were two support acts on the bill, again, we hadn’t heard of them previously and owing to other issues, my head was in other places so I’ll admit to not having taken my usual approach of researching them before the show. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t as there were a couple of surprises in store as the evening unfolded, read on to find out what…..
The first act on stage was South West based Leigh Coleman, he was accompanied by an amazing acoustic guitarist called Steve Down who, after checking on him, has played alongside such megastars as Jeff Beck, Beverley Knight and Joss Stone (to name a few), the evening was panning out nicely thus far….
Leigh explained that they were only given a couple of hours notice for the show and as a result, they would be having a ‘bit of a jam’, call it what you want Leigh, we thought it was amazing! His voice was smooth, full bodied, rich with a hint of honey about it, not too sweet, just right. He launched into a cover of ‘Rather Be’ by Clean Bandit which sounded exquisite, backed with Steve’s guitar, this got the room moving from the word go!
From here, he played some classics ranging from Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’, his version of a Ray Charles number injected a more bluesy sound to his vocals and he even demonstrated that he can do human beat-boxing which really got the crowd jumping.
Midway through Leigh’s set, a lone dancer took to the floor, she was proper up for it, arms flailing about, very animated, I have seen her at previous Phoenix shows, good to see someone getting into the spirit of things on a Wednesday night!
Leigh ended his set with a great version of George Benson’s ‘Give me the Night’, which featured more sublime guitar work which, coupled with his great vocal style, really allowed him to shine ever brighter. I’m going to keep an eye on this talented guy, I think big things are ahead for him!
Up next were a 3 piece blues/funk band called DFunk, from the outset, these guys made it very clear that they were here to do business and the near capacity audience were so glad they were. Opening with a strong guitar led track, it took them no time at all to get into their stride, the bass player really cutting some great grooves for the guitarist to play over. You rarely see a band where the instruments that they play appear to be an extension of their own bodies, this was very much the case here.
As well as being an amazing guitar player, I have to say that he could also play them keys too, I was stood side of stage, wishing that I’d paid more attention in music class rather than turning up the tempo and volume on all the keyboards before the rest of the class performed their pieces, resulting in a deafening cacophony of 1980’s styled drum n’ bass blaring out instead of ‘Morning has Broken’….
Now, this is where it gets interesting…… We like to ‘tweet’ images whilst the band are playing on stage, try as we might, could we find anything on ‘DFunk’ on Twitter? Well yes, there were loads of references to bands with the same name but looking at these 3 guys on stage, I doubt that they had made a trip from Louisiana to appear for one night only at the Exeter Phoenix. It then dawned on me, I knew the guitarist, having seen him before a couple of times over the last couple of years, it was none other than the legendary Jay Tamkin who plays in a number of bands across the county.
Their set came to a close and they exited the stage, dripping with sweat having given their all on stage for the past 30 minutes. If you get a chance to see Jay Tamkin in whatever guise he is appearing, I guarantee you a great night!
So, onto the main act of the evening, 6 piece Henley on Thames super-group Brother Strut.
I’ve already told you about the band, who they have worked with previously and that, as a collective unit, they have worked on songs that have sold over half a BILLION times across the globe, just think about that and then consider what they might sound like. To say that they were tight is an understatement, these guys were masters of their crafts and it didn’t take long to realise that the stage was full of absolute professionals, performing to a packed out auditorium on a Wednesday night. There were some proper funked up sounds coming from those speakers and the opening couple of tracks allowed each member to showcase their particular instrument, fusing together to create a solid wall of sound that was going down better than a pint of cold beer on a hit sunny day. Midway through the set, they introduced a simple dance move called the ‘Brother Strut Sway’, they got the audience joining in whilst they played a unique version of King of Leon’s classic ‘Sex on Fire’ adding their own funky twist to the proceedings.
Their version of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ was perfect, a real showcase of their abilities whilst keeping the format of the song the same, they did freestyle a little towards the end as they merged into a few bars of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Lets Get it on’, absolutely flawless and mesmerising at the same time.
The auditorium was filled with a variety of people, the regular full time groove monkeys and the type who wouldn’t normally get out to a midweek gig but were so glad they did, if this is the reception the band receive on a school night, I can only imagine how they would have gone down had it have been a Saturday night!
Their encore consisted of a soulful, stripped down version of Lorde’s ‘Royals’, followed by a drum and percussion solo that lasted a good few minutes. Brother Strut haven’t been together as a band very long but what I saw at the Exeter Phoenix surpassed most of the more established bands that have been at it for years. A much enjoyed midweek outing to the Exeter Phoenix with some proper kick ass music that blew away the cobwebs allowing the fans to really ‘shake em’ on down’….
In order that you see how talented these guys are, I have embedded a few videos below for you to watch, you can thank me later!
The band have just finished a run of UK dates, if you missed them this time around, fret not, their album is available below.