CHRIS RICKETTS BAND – The Cellars At Eastney – 1st November 2011

The Cellars At Eastney would be a decent pub if it wasn’t for the music. Or, to put it another way, it would be a decent music venue if it wasn’t for the layout, the crowding, the lack of decent seating and the section of the audience that doesn’t have the wit or good manners to shut the f*** up when the artists are on stage. Chris Ricketts’ album launch was a bigged-up version of a regular Cellars acoustic night with three support acts of whom  only The Portsmouth Shantymen struck an appropriate note.

Indeed, Chris invited them back on stage for a couple of songs latter in his set. He kicked off with ‘Bully In The Alley’, a song which isn’t on Port Of Escape but makes a sh1t-kicking opener. He immediately switched to his gentler mode with ‘Spanish Ladies’, considered somewhat passé these days which Chris performs beautifully. After ‘Haul Away Joe’ and ‘Hanging Johnny’ he slowed things down again with ‘Boston And St. John’s’ with Steve Hampton switching from electric double bass to delicate lead guitar. Chris has an excellent band behind him, notably Garry Blakeley on fiddle who played some gorgeous counter melodies and rhythms. It was impossible to see much of drummer Alex Stack who was squeezed into a corner of the stage but his contribution was vital if unobtrusive.

They played all the album and threw in ‘Sally Brown’ and ‘Shallow Brown’ before finishing with ‘Leave Her Johnny’ which segued into a reggae take on ‘Drunken Sailor’. An encore was inevitable and the band returned for that great old sea song, ‘Teenage Kicks’.

Chris has made a great album and has a superb band to support him. I’m now looking forward to hearing him in a venue where the music is of more than passing interest.

Dai Jeffries

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