April 18, 2023

All photos by Simon Green

… relaxing and having fun, horrendous jetlag notwithstanding.

Gigs with a support act are great, and there’s no doubt I have seen up-and-coming bands that way that I would never have come across otherwise. But double-headers are another step up; you get a good, healthy, hour-long dose of each one, long enough for them to get into their stride, effectively two for the price of one. This gig at Sittingbourne matched English power-rocker Troy Redfern with long-haired groovers The Commoners from Canada, with their distinctly southern United States rock’n’roll.

Chris Medhurst and Ross Hayes Citrullo of The Commoners (photo by Simon Green)

It was The Commoners who went on first, kicking off with More Than Mistakes from their current album Find A Better Way. In fact the set was composed almost entirely of songs from this release or their mooted new album, slated for release later this year. Front man Chris Medhurst doffs his cowboy hat and his rhythm guitar for the hooky title track, Find A Better Way, with its rocking Allman Brothers vibe. By the third number, a good ol’ country blues with a heavier edge named Devil Teasin’ Me, the first offering from their stock of new songs, they were relaxing and having fun, horrendous jetlag notwithstanding.

Body And Soul is a number that the band have been playing live for years, and was a set highlight for sure, especially considering it didn’t appear on either of their existing albums. In a bout of deep 1970s showmanship, guitarist Ross Hayes Citrullo uses a violin bow on his Les Paul on the intro to this one; the bow also comes out for the waltz-time ballad Naturally, with its mellow, bluesy guitar tones, always a winner. From here on in, it was highlights all the way – Deadlines opens with an extended electric piano ballad intro, leading into a slightly more proggy, almost jazzy number with a distinct Led Zep flavour and a great, tight ending.

Sweet Melissa is a melodic, open-chorded cover of an Allman Brothers ballad, followed by two more songs from Find A Better Way to conclude the set: the emotional Hangin’ On Again, weeping and rocking by turns, and the mid-tempo power-pop of Fill My Cup, with another helping of Led Zeppelin garnish, especially in the choruses.

Troy Redfern and Keira Kenworthy – check out Troy’s Silvertone axe… (photo by Simon Green)

Southern Brit Troy Redfern has been putting himself about on the UK scene recently, drawing fans with his cool-as-you-like, dark, brooding looks shaded under a wide-rimmed leather stetson, and his one-man slide guitar showcase on a succession of vintage acoustics. This is the first time I have seen him with the full touring band though, a power trio consisting of Troy with cool bassist Keira Kenworthy from all-girl pop-rockers JoanOfArc, and the energetically excellent Finn McAuley on drums. He powers into the first number on an overdriven Stratocaster, the manic, punky metal of All Night Long, which he announces as being from his new record due out in September. He changes to his trusty National resonator acoustic for Sweet Carolina from his current album The Wings Of Salvation, but a succession of impressive vintage guitars are paraded before our eyes, the more outlandish the better – my eyes were particularly taken by a 1960s dark red Teisco Orbit with four pickups for the good-time rocker Getaway.

Again, every song is either from the current album or a future offering, until he powers into Scorpio from 2021’s The Fire Cosmic, always a highlight of every set. He changes up the rhythm a bit with the heavy blues shuffle of The Fever, another teaser from the new album, but the end of the set comprises a couple more favourites from The Fire Cosmic, the mid-tempo pounding rock of Waiting For Your Love, and the inevitable juggernaut metal of Sanctify. For a moment, I wondered if he had jettisoned his signature improvised wig-out on Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile, but here it is, incorporated into the middle of this final number.

‘Intense’ is the word for Troy’s performances, as he hardly lets up on the pounding beat for a moment. It’s almost strange to see him after the show, relaxed and chatty, smiling and friendly; it goes to underline what a performer he is when on stage. The Commoners too, mingling with the crowd, made a lot of friends tonight I think. Kudos to the Bourne Club for bringing classy new rock to Kent; long may it continue.