GIG REVIEW: Ash Grunwald + Support, The Zoo, Brisbane 19/10/19

Ash Grunwald

Words by Terresa Allen

Opening for Ash Grunwald last night at The Zoo was the delightful, talented and ever so endearing Jack Botts. The local singer/songwriter captured the hearts of a small but lively early crowd with his cruisy beach vibe and indie pop style, and that was all well before him telling us the tale of being caught in the act – literally, by Jack Johnson whilst playing his “Johnsonish” styled The Coffee Song at a Bryon Bay Community Centre gig.  Johnson happened to be in town for a surf premier with Kelly Slater at the time, but no one was more surprised than Botts when the lights came down than to see Johnson standing there listening to him.  

He survived the encounter ok though and last night’s performance saw Botts put together a perfect little combination of home grown tunes. Numbers that were bright, breezy and with filled with stories of love, life, smiles, oceans, open roads and night skies; the majority coming from his 2018 ‘Summer Nights’ release. With narratives easily identifiable and relatable, there was soon a growing warmth and appreciation from The Zoo crowd for both Botts’ music and style.

Some stand outs were Beauty Below, Home to You, and the lovely closing number Gypsy. If you are after some easy breezy, feel good beats then Botts has got you covered. He’s a busy few months ahead though, opening for Grunwald, a Melbourne show with Tash Sultana at The Forum and his own new release and tour dates coming up – he’ll be next back with us here in Brisbane on his 2019 Northern Rivers EP Tour around December. 

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It’s been a while since multi award winning bluesman Ash Grunwald has been on tour, and five years since his last album release – although that’s not to say he hasn’t been a busy man. With a score of accomplishments under his belt, including publishing his first ever book ‘Surf By Day, Jam By Night,’ starting up his Soulful Conversations Podcast series, and introducing us to his new studio album ‘Mojothis year, he’s definitely not be idle.

‘Mojo’ is a definitive blues album, featuring some extraordinary collaborations from both Australian and internally renowned artists. Think Kasey Chambers, The Teskey Brothers, Jon Bonamassa, Harry Angus James, the late Terry Evans and more. What a treat it was to be in the crowd last night for Good Call Live – to hear, see and feel the power of the Mojo Album Tour coming to life on The Zoo stage.

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Whilst support act Jack Botts may have had the early punters toes tapping and added a little warmth to what was already a beautiful spring evening in Brisbane, things got a whole lot hotter as Ash Grunwald and band hit the stage for their only Brisbane show of the national Mojo Album Tour. Kicking off with Hammer, the tone was set and neither Grunwald or the band let the throttle fall below overdrive for the rest of the night, delivering a raucous, blistering blues session which spanned the best part of 2 hours – steel guitars, broken strings, steaming heat, stripping punters, sensational showmanship and frenzied beats all part of the package. The breeze wafting through The Zoo’s opening windows having little effect as the intensity in the room soared.

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Grunwald’s smouldering guitar skills and distinctive vocals were matched on stage by a stellar crew including crowd favourite and consummate entertainer South African bassist Uncle Tio. “Uncle” as he’s affectionately known had the punters eating out of the palm of his hand with his bad arse bass playing and hip swaggering antics. 2019 Gold Coast Music Awards Musician of Year award winner Ian Peres (Wolfmother) was a force to be reckoned with on keys, enjoying every moment on stage he had the crowd with him every step of the way, as hair flying and hands pounding he poured heart and soul into belting out the nights tracks. Driving hard on the skins and laying down the beat from the back was Pete Wilkins, percussionist and former drummer with Blue King Brown.

The show was a rollicking and spirited journey through standout tracks from the new album, including Human, Whispering Voice, 3am and personal favourites Whipping Boy – dedicated last night to the memory of Terry Evans – legendary Mississippi R&B vocalist who features on the album, Waiting Around to Die and Ain’t My Problem, these were interceded with tried and tested hits like Longtime, Sky Falling, Stones and a scorching version of Be Yourself. The stage was on fire as Grunwald and company took a short break and returned with a heavy blues ridden rendition of Ain’t No Sunshine, backed up by a killer closer in Breakout.

In fact, the show was all killer, no filler! The energy of the performance was simply ferocious, gutsy, unadulterated passion poured from the guys onstage, it was a consummate performance from one of Australia’s best blues musicians, backed by a top-quality band in one of Brisbane’s most iconic music venues. What’s not love about a night like that!

If you like your blues deep, dirty, raw and well-honed, I’d encourage you to get along to one of the Mojo Album Tour dates real soon, or pick yourself up a super cool vinyl copy of ‘Mojo’ while you still can.

Ash plays Halls Gap Hotel in Victoria on October 25 and then the tour continues on to Tasmania. Tickets HERE.

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