Review: Kris Barras Band/South of Salem – The Foundry, Torquay

The Foundry, Torquay
Saturday 6th April 2024

Review and photos – Rob Wilkins

Home town shows always raise the emotion and energy from a standard gig and the Kris Barras Band has played a blinder or two at the underused Foundry venue in Torquay. Add in an album release and it being the first night of the tour and it was always going to be a sell-out night.

It’s a great venue for a gig, the balconies overlooking the stage making it feel like one of the cages the man himself used to frequent in his previous career and the queue on a cold and very windy night snaked around the block when we arrived.

As the album hasn’t been released yet, Kris appeared on stage to introduce a “listening party” for the new album ‘Halo Effect. In a word, wow!, the heaviest album yet and the production is immense. For almost an hour there was rapt attention and appreciation as each song revealed craft and skill from everyone involved. Hopefully, the album will chart on release and bring the work to a wider audience as it deserves it!

The live music started with rising stars from Bournemouth, South of Salem. Filling the tiny stage they combine theatrical presence, visual image, stagecraft, and catchy, heavy songs in a superb set. We are treated to an eight-song set, opening with ‘Vultures’ and ‘Static’ (from the new album ‘Death of the Party’) and anyone that has not seen the band before is assimilated by song three ‘Let us Prey’.

Singer Joey Draper leads an enthusiastic call and response from the crowd on ‘Made to be Mine’ before the energy rises further as bandmates Kodi, Denis, and Dee bounce from riser to riser for ‘Hellbound Heart. ‘Left for Dead’ – introduced as the new single – is an utter stormer and the set culminates with all hands in the air for ‘Cold Day in Hell’ where Joey takes to the barrier, and finally ‘Jet Black Eyes’. Great fun and showmanship and certainly a band to raise the temperature of a cold venue, South of Salem support on the rest of the tour as well as headlining Hanger 18 Festival in Swansea on the Bank Holiday weekend (a great weekend if you haven’t got a ticket!)

After a brief stage clearance, the lights go down, and Tenacious D’s ‘Tribute’ has the crowd singing along before Frazer (bass), Billy (drums) and Josiah (everything he can find that makes music) take to the stage, being joined by Kris Barras himself as sparklers ignite and usher in ‘Who Needs Enemies’ before the first of the new songs ‘Unbreakable’ gets an airing and is allowed to fly free across Torbay. ‘Dead Horses’ completes our time in the pit and I find myself a great view side stage to watch the rest of the show.

‘Savages’ is the second new song to assault our ears and is sensational. It continues the move from Blues to the much heavier sound that comprises the journey the band have been on. Frazer’s six-string bass, Josiah doubling up on guitars and the huge drum work behind them from Billy all batter you senseless before Barras lets rip with more short but impressive solos as the set careers through ‘These Voices’ and ‘Hourglass’. The latest single to be released from ‘Halo Effect’ is ‘Secrets’ and Barras uses the intro to talk about the new album and hopes for that chart position, lamenting the fact that Beyoncé has music out at the same time so they may not reach number one. 

For ‘Devil You Know’, Kris leads a call and response, where his vocal development is highlighted as, isolated from the guitars, the power, and range become apparent. He then heads into the crowd, randomly offering the mic to someone in the crowd who turns out to be able to give as good as he gets in vocal capability, acknowledged by Kris as he then stays at the barrier watching his band for a while with a proud grin on his face.

Now, up until this point, very much what I had anticipated. The new material develops onwards from 2022’s studio album ‘Death Valley Paradise’ in a similar direction and the previous blues material only appears as glimpses in the solos and some of the phrasing. But, a keyboard is bought on for Josiah, the remainder of the band takes a rest and between Kris and Josiah, we are treated to one of the most sublime passages of musical ability I have seen at a gig in a LONG time. Manning’s keys are stupendous on ‘Wake Me’, a song written in and relating to lockdown, and when he is given room to take the spotlight I find tears on my cheeks from the sheer emotion brought about by the perfection of his playing. There then follows a jam between the two of them before Kris rips into an extended version of ‘Watching Over Me’. For the first time in a long time of seeing him perform, he shows the virtuoso playing that raises the hairs on the back of your neck and has you forgetting the unimportant things in life, like taking a breath. He tells the story of what the song means, and you hear that emotion in every single note and phrase. The crowd becomes a sea of pinpoints of light as the song reaches a crescendo and somewhere, somehow, you know a father was looking down so proud.

I have no idea how long this segment lasted, it might have been ten minutes or three days, I was lost in a world where nothing else existed. This, for me, was the night and the set where everything that the Kris Barras Band have been, are, and will be, came together, being able to see the future and celebrate the past.

The final showcase of the new album for the evening came courtesy of ‘Fall to Fly’ before we returned to more seminal older tracks with ‘Light It Up’ (featuring another stupendous solo, followed by Josiah taking a turn to wow on six strings, a bass and drum solo and finally the entire band sat down on the stage as Billy took the drums down quieter and quieter), then ‘My Parade’ with Barras splitting the audience in two like Moses and finally ‘Hail Mary’ to end to tumultuous applause.

There have been times along the band’s journey that I have missed the old Bluesy style and virtuoso playing. The set and delivery tonight brought that back, along with the new heavier sound and the two worked perfectly together. I don’t know if it was the Turkish coffee from the restaurant across the street or the adrenaline of the gig that had me awake long after I got home, but I do know that you would be crazy to miss the chance to see a band that have taken a bar already set high, so much higher with this tour, so get a ticket if you can!

Tour dates:

Fri 12th Apr – SOUTHAMPTON Engine Rooms

Sat 13th Apr – WOLVERHAMPTON KK’S Steel Mill

Sun14th Apr – MANCHESTER Academy

Wed 17th Apr – GLASGOW The Garage

Thu 18th Apr – NEWCASTLE Boiler Shop

Fri 19th Apr – NOTTINGHAM Rock City

Sat 20th Apr – LONDON Islington Assembly Hall

Tickets on sale HERE

‘Halo Effect’ is available on April 12 via Earache Records, pre-order HERE

In-store dates:

Fri 12th Apr – Vinilo, SOUTHAMPTON

Sat 13th Apr – HMV The Vault, BIRMINGHAM

Sun 14th Apr – Wax and Beans, BURY

Mon 15th Apr – The Jacaranda, LIVERPOOL

Tues 16th Apr – Assai, EDINBURGH

Wed 17th Apr – Assai, GLASGOW

Thu 18th Apr – Beyond Vinyl, NEWCASTLE

Sun 21st Apr – The Cavern, EXETER

Mon 22nd Apr – Banquet Records @ The Fighting Cocks, KINGSTON

Tue 23rd Apr – Rough Trade, NOTTINGHAM

Wed 24th Apr – Rough Trade East, LONDON

Thu 25th Apr – Truck Music, OXFORD *

Thu 25th Apr – Rough Trade, BRISTOL *

Fri 26th Apr – Derricks Music, SWANSEA *

Fri 26th Apr – HMV, CARDIFF *

* some dates will show more than one event due to timings

More information on in-store appearances HERE

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