Live Review: Kris Barras Band – Manchester

Live Review: Kris Barras Band - Academy 2, Manchester
16th March 2022
Support: Ashley Sherlock Band, Florence Black
Words: Dan Barnes

With a killer new album freshly released and an extensive string of UK dates in support, the time has never felt more right for the Kris Barras Band to take that next step up.

First up on this three band bill is the Ashley Sherlock Band, a Mancunian trio whose laconic grooves and laid back vibes hide some rather ferocious shredding and a massive bass pulse. There’s a health turn out for so early in the evening and those in attendance are treated to half an hour of bluesy Southern Rock, reminiscent at times of the spirit of early Whitesnake.

Florence Black is the second three-piece to grace the stage tonight and do so with a harsher and more abrasive attack than Ashley and co. Straight out of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, the band set about laying down a marker for the headliners with a series of machine gun riffs and massive grooves. Where Ashley Sherlock was channelling a chilled-out aura, Florence Black seem intent on taking no prisoners with an all-out assault of hard driving rock; and the way frontman, Tristan Thomas, wrings those riffs from his guitars he seems he has some sort of vendetta against it. In honour of fellow-countryman, Burke Shelley of Budgie, who passed away earlier this year, Florence Black rip out a killer version of Breadfan before ending with Southern Moon.

There’s a healthy contingent of Stonedead shirts here tonight – myself included – and nods of recognition pass between those wearers. It feels a bit like the early noughties, when you’d see a Bloodstock shirt at a gig. Let’s just hope Stonedead can follow a similar route to success.

I mention Stonedead as the 2021 show was the first time I’d saw the Kris Barras Band; and that show inspired me to discover their back catalogue and directly led me the Academy tonight. While the Newark show on a sunny summer’s afternoon felt laid back a chilled, tonight, within the confines of a room, the Kris Barras Band is a completely different animal.

Kicking off with Hail Mary is a calculated risk as it is so crucial to Kris’ repertoire that he could leave himself with nowhere to go. But if it’s a gamble, it’s one that pays off, and puts the set at a high energy level from the outset.

Naturally Death Valley Paradise material is prevalent throughout the evening. Dead Horses and My Parade – both of which were in the Stonedead set – bookend the show, along with the mellow Wake Me When It’s Over, Devil You Know – which sees drummer Billy Hammett seeming to be having a whale of a time behind the kit – and the collective band favourite, These Voices. Kris tells us Planet Rock are pushing the single, Who Needs Enemies this week and apologises if people are getting fed up with hearing it.

The new material is heavier than previous tracks – whether that is a reaction to two years of inactivity or the natural progression of the band, only time will tell; though in the live environment you wouldn’t really be able to see where the join is as the power behind the Death Valley… tracks is repeated in the likes of Rock n’ Roll Running Through My Veins, Ignition (Light it Up) and the encore of Lovers and Losers.

There’s a mid-set break as the rhythm section take-five and leave Kris and guitarist Josiah J Manning to bust out the acoustics and run through Heart on Your Sleeve from the first record – a record Kris is overly critical about as he wrote and produced it and feels he could have done a better job. Josiah not only plays guitar and adds vocals on this one, but also plays the basslines with his right foot and keyboards with his left. And that’s some superstar-level multitasking!

The short acoustic portion is ended with Skynyrd’s Simple Man – a song Kris admits he wished he’d written – before the whole band return for Watching Over Me. The heartfelt poignancy of dedicating this song to his father and extending that to anyone who had lost someone over the past two years is palpable and the emotive solo would break all but the stoniest of hearts.

The Kris Barras Band have paid their dues over the years – including some high profile supports for Black Stone Cherry and Bon Jovi – and it feels like now is their time. They have a brilliant new record and a devastating live show to back it up. The stars are aligned. Big things await. And deservedly so.

In case you missed them...

  • Check out our interview with Kris here
  • Check out our interview with Tristan from Florence Black here.

header image photo credits: Tim Finch Photography

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