I have been meaning to see Chantel McGregor for a long time now. I have liked her music for quite a while and I have been told that she is a great performer. So when she announced that she was coming to my neck of the woods in St Helens, I was more than ready to be wowed. The Citadel is a solid venue for this kind of show. It has that right balance of size and space. Being big enough of a venue to hold a decent capacity but at the same time, it still feels intimate. So it always makes for a good night out. Plus I had the added benefit of not having to negotiate public transport. The venue was pretty full making for a good atmosphere. I also had never heard of the of the support act and I was ready to hear something brand new to my ears.
First up on the stage was the wonderfully talented, Lucy Zirins. A simply wonderful vocalist who really lit up the venue with her charm, personality, and talent. A very quiet and low key set, just an acoustic guitar, bass and keyboard, she captivated the crowd with her stories of love, heartbreak, and alcohol. Her voice was very genuine and pure. Just a really bright and wonderful start to the evening. Hitting us with her older material, sprinkled in with some new songs, the crowd ate up tune after tune. A particular highlight of the set came with her wonderful rendition of "Everywhere" by Fleetwood Mac, which was a stripped back, more grounded version and made the song feel like one of her own. Which was simply stunning and her voice carried really well. I also appreciated the way she interacted with the crowd was excellent. Competently throwing banter around the venue and speaking to the crowd on a human level. She was an amazing opening act and set up the crowd perfectly. I love hearing music this genuine and real, it lets me know that there are musicians out there that aren't just talented but have something to say.
After a short break, the Yorkshire guitar rocker, Chantel McGregor took to the stage and what followed was nothing short of amazing. She burst into a flurry of well-executed riffs and phenomenally enjoyable solos all moulded into excellent tunes. It was so fun watching her just jam away on her guitar as her backing band, Colin Sutton (on bass) & Tom Gardner (on drums) provided one hell of a rhythm section. The bass made for a booming bottom to the guitar tone and the drums thrashed away. The sound was excellent throughout and all three of them shared amazing chemistry. Despite suffering from a heavy cold, Chantel powered through and remained as professional as she could, whilst still having a good chat with the crowd. The St Helens audience was excellent as well with banter flowing freely back and forth between them and Chantel. A variety of subjects came up, which just added to the evening as laughter filled the venue. It was a night of rock n roll and cheeky banter. It cannot be understated how floored I was watching her play. Stringing together notes, melodies and harmonies into gut-punching and enjoyable songs. Regardless of acoustic or electric guitar she was just in her element and clearly enjoying being on stage. Towards the end of the set, she debuted a new song called "April" due to be on the new album next year. A sweeping and huge instrumental ballad that impressed everyone.
This was an excellent night. Chantel had a wonderfully balanced set-list, from hard rock tunes to blues anthems and included some beautiful acoustic songs. Both performers are incredible talents and I hope there are more young musicians looking up to artists like Chantel and Lucy. Two genuine and honest artists who have a real affinity for music. Both of them able to tell stories with their songs.