The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world




March 29th 2015



In a year where Soundwave has deserted us and Big Day Out is no more it’s always good to know that Perth’s very own West Coast Blues and Roots Festival is still here 12 years old, and still delivering great music for those of us out there who love great music. On face value this year looked a little light on after the amazing tenth anniversary year and last year’s John Mayer and Dave Matthews Band extravaganza. But the best thing about Blues and Roots over the years is how it always manages to deliver and this year with no exception with mesmerising sets all the way from John Butler to Morgan Bain and Old Blood who opened.


I don’t care what type of music you love: Mavis Staples is the sort of performer who even at her tender age of 75 can still move you. Whether she is belting out the Staples Singers classics that put her on her way like ‘If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)’ or ‘I’ll Take you There’ or adding her take to songs like Talking Heads ‘Slippery People’ or ‘The Weight’ by The Band (covered in the 60’s by The Staples Singers) she energises the entire crowd and is more than welcome back in Perth any time she chooses.


Xavier Rudd’s latest incarnation with ‘The United Nations’ delivers a set with a message of harmony that fits in beautifully with the whole ethos of the Festival. Collecting a talented group of musicians from around the globe to create a ‘One People Musical Force’ there’s a joyous reggae-flavoured set that draws a great response from the appreciative crowd.

Back in the tent however four times Blues and Roots artist Keb’ Mo’ gets us back to the Blues off the back of his number one US album ‘Blues Americana’ and it wouldn’t be stretching things to say this is the best we’ve seen from him yet. Back outside Paul Kelly presents us with the ‘Merri Soul Sessions’ showcasing some great Australian talent with Dan Sultan, Kira Puru and Vika and Linda Bull. There’s a great mix of songs and some wonderful harmonies leaving no one disappointed.


Probably the biggest disappointment of the day for us is David Gray who follows a stunning set in the tent from the unmissable Mexican duo Rodrigo Y Gabriella who transfix the audience on their second visit with their blend of flamenco-rock-jazz-metal. If you have never seen them before they need to be added to the bucket list immediately. Gray however probably needs to be added to the snooze list – it’s hard to believe on this showing that he has been compared to the likes of Springsteen, Cat Stevens, Van Morrison and even 2011 Blues and Roots headliner Bob Dylan. Still record sales and a large crowd probably prove us wrong; we just didn’t see it and his ‘background music’ is pleasant enough but lacks both passion and fire tonight.

Diametrically opposed to Gray’s set Jimmy Cliff is a fizzing ball of energy. At 66 he defies any preconceptions you might have about age and energy, and clad in an intense gold suit he delivers one of the performances of the day. (If you want to check him out again in April he plays Perth again at a free event hosted by the City of Wanneroo).


Last time we saw Jimmy was at the sadly missed Reggae Music Festival ‘Ragamuffin’ in 2011 where he wore a splendid green-striped white tracksuit, but it is so good to have him back whether it’s for his originals like ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’, ‘The Harder They Come’, ‘Sitting in Limbo’, ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ or the Australian adopted ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ or the covers he has made his own like Cat Stevens' ‘Wild World’ or the sublime version of Johnny Nash's ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ which I can never stop bringing a tear to my eye and has old and young alike singing in unison to..


As a primarily Rock and Blues website we don’t stray a lot outside of our field but if we were to then Scotland’s Paolo Nutini has just been added to our list. With an intensity and engagement that made us feel like we were watching the sadly missed Joe Cocker at times and Scotland’s own Rod Stewart at others we are both in awe and taken aback at the same time (never actually having heard a thing he’s done till this week!). And that for us at least is what Blues and Roots is all about: for every David Gray we find a Paolo Nutini: a great voice with equally great songs… The ladies tell me he’s not too bad looking either…


Now that we’re at the business end of the night the Festival this year doesn’t put a foot wrong: Jurassic 5 add Hip Hop for the younger crowd but in a way that doesn’t one bit alienate the older genre-curious.


Out on the main stage ‘local band’ and headliners John Butler Trio show why having a ‘local’ act as headliner is far from the end of the world: ‘local doesn’t negate their international appeal and in May they head to the US for Festival dates then onto Europe for the Northern Summer. I’ve seen Butler so many times now I’ve lost count but his impassioned pronouncements whether environmental or political are always an integral part of his set and an initial dig at the current WA government for their closing of a number of remote aboriginal communities is well-received. At the end of the day though the music does the taking and the Trio put on probably the best performance I’ve seen.


That only leaves the legendary George Clinton in the tent and with his bucket-list ticking set he is the only man who could bring this wonderful festival to a close. Despite the wonders of the last few years it’s hard to argue that this year’s West Coast Blues and Roots hasn’t delivered more than ae’d hoped for yet again…


by Mark Rockpit


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