As the Brudenell Games Room begins to fill, support band Rising High Water take to the floor. The quartet are almost apologetic as they drown out conversations but soon have the full attention of everyone there, including the night’s headliners. The Leeds band set the tone with a strong set of blues tracks mostly comprising of covers, but ones they have developed into their own style.
Breaking away from the traditional basic blues setup of a guitar and an amplifier, lead guitarist Jon Vipond illustrates his mastery of slide guitar and takes the sound a step further with heavily modulated effects such as delay, chorus and phaser to create a truly unique sound. Added to the thundering rhythm section and occasional solo from front man Seb Munday the group soon have the crowd onside. No Sinner weave in and out, clearly enjoying the set as Rennison screams and cheers every song. They have promised Far Out a sneak peak of their upcoming EP so look out for that in the coming weeks.
Despite being next up, Rennison mingles with the crowd as her bandmates set up. The Brudenell Games Room has no stage and puts the band on the floor and face to face with the audience. It could be daunting for a less accomplished group of performers but No Sinner lap it up, excelling in the intimacy. As Eric Campbell (guitar), Ian Browne (drums) and Brandon Clark (bass) kick off the blues lament ‘September Moon’, Rennison steps from crowd to microphone, spectator to spectacle, and from the first notes she has the Games Room under her spell.
The live setting is where No Sinner really come into their own as the open blues structure gives each member, particularly guitarist Campbell, the space to improvise and manoeuvre within the structure. Effortlessly he dances across the fretboard, looking quite like namesake Eric Bell (Thin Lizzy) and with tone to rival another famous namesake in Clapton. As Rennison explained to Far Out, they never play songs the same way twice, and that is evident in Campbell’s style and freedom. Flitting between the choppy staccato rhythm of ‘Love Is A Madness’ to the all out blues of ‘Running’ he compliments Rennison’s powerful vocal with waiting leads and clean, intricate chords as appropriate.
Their interpretation of Nina Simone’s ‘Work Song’ typifies the band’s attitude. They respect the soul and blues tradition but have no issues with adapting and fitting their own style around it. Rennison seems lost in the music, trancelike and consumed but comfortable in the spotlight. She leaves the trio to enjoy an extended jam for a quick wardrobe change, racing through the crowd, then back again with her trademark denim shorts.
The riff driven ‘Devil On My Back’ highlights the rhythm section of Clarke and Browne, fusing well already despite their short time together. Rennison introduces a new song saying “this one’s fierce” and she wasn’t lying. The promise of new jammier, powerful and psychedelic music was kept as Saturday Night raised the intensity of the performance that bit more.
The almost clichéd quips of “you’ve been a great audience” and “we love it here” have a lot more weight when the band have spent most of their time in the crowd mingling, dancing and chatting. They have no delusions and no pretension, they just love to play and when they ask how long they have left they are met with cries of “not long enough!”
Comparisons are futile when it comes to Rennison who seems to channel her influences and personality through the music, but Canada’s new queen of rock is still subject to the whims of her right hand man. Campbell pulls rank in a hilarious onstage debate about how many songs are left and which of their repertoire they should play by launching into an extended intro to ‘Rise Up’. The other three have no choice but to wait for the signal to join in.
His command of the guitar is in the ilk of a Jimmy Hendrix or Rory Gallagher, delicate when necessary, brutal when he feels like it and he toys with the others, pretending to come to an end of the intro before adding on another few bars. A subtle nod brings the rest in and Rennison delivers a rousing sermon, lifting the crowd with one of the album’s, and the night’s, stand out tracks.
Negotiations settled, ‘Mandy-Lyn’ is a fixture of No Sinner gigs and sets things up nicely for the climax of ‘Boo Hoo Hoo’. Again the ability of Clark, Campbell and Browne to jam and feel their way through a song gives more life and intensity to the show than simply a live performance of the album. Campbell gets to do what all guitarists love to do and solos his way into a final chorus before the band down tools and return to mingling with a by now adoring crowd.
Rennison, the consummate professional, takes a place at the merch table posing for photos and signing copies of the album, while Campbell and Browne adopt a more reserved role in proceedings. Clark, so new to the fold, seems almost embarrassed when he is asked to sign CDs and show off his beautiful, ancient bass guitar. Their hospitality and humility is just one of many things that sets them apart and no punter is left unsatisfied before all four disappear through to the bar for more drinks, more chat and more mingling.
Photo credit: Amy Ray Photography