Live Milan 1/12/18

Alex Haynes & The Fever: Turbigo (MI) / La Tana Garage
1/12/2018 – by Helga Franzetti

Described as one of the best blues voices of the UK, with forceful and biting guitar, the British singer-songwriter Alex Haynes, inflames the stage of the La Tana Garage, in Turbigo, with a very tight set from the first to last minute, regardless of the small audience – and far from the attention that a musician of his talent deserves. I do not think it is synonymous with flattery weaving the praises of those who, far from the circle of prominent names and moved substantially by passion and courage, manages to lead from the Thames to the Naviglio Grande, an outsider of the caliber of Alex Haynes, voice and attitude still too little known. So, Pablo Leoni, coach/player in the double role of promoter and drummer, along with Alessandro Diaferio’s bass, accompanies the guitar of an English guy who, to look at, would seem to come from Trentino and perform for almost two hours with a show decidedly genuine and impregnated with healthy and honest rock.

In the veins of this man with a deep blue gaze, the vigorous beat of the British blues pumps boiling blood – the same blood that flows in streams in the downhome roots and explodes haemorrhagically in a muddy and convulsive sound. The intense exchange between England and the States in the late ‘60s, the one that gave new life to the ‘music of the devil’, strongly enriching these sounds, Haynes has been able to absorb it, creating an absolutely credible and personalised mix.

A scary guitar in front of a bewitching smile, a high impact fingerstyle technique that predisposes to a relationship with the very physical, powerful, intimate instrument. I have always been won over by guitarists who do not use a plectrum, I find that the sound created by the fingers is immensely warm, almost voluptuous and the tireless action especially of thumb and index together with the sound often on the same string. It means that even a simple accompaniment no longer sounds trivial, but becomes a real arrangement. Perhaps the feeling of better contact with the vibrating part of the instrument offers greater sensitivity on the management of dynamics, on the rhythm – the fact is, I love this way of playing for what it transmits and is able to express.

It starts with ‘Last Train’, from the first EP, hypnotic and unusual. It opens with Alex’s slide on the 335 and only after an intro of magnetic riffs are inserted bass and drums supporting the dark and vibrating rhythm in the first four minutes of a concert that already promises to be explosive. ‘Shake it Up’ launches into a rhythm that shakes, and shakes the hips, while the 12 bars of ‘From Time to Time’ with their full and incisive sound gives us a dirtier and funkier version of the original from the latest album, but always in theme with the vigor of the road that took the Saturday night live from an Alto-Milanian suburb. The widespread energy which has impregnated the set in a domineering manner regains it’s breath on a single ballad, the splendid, ‘Out On Saturday Night’, originally an acoustic track on ‘Last Train’.

Sliding and burning riffs are masters of the game, even the Telecaster responds to the orders of the Captain (and here a thought to good old Beefheart is there to brush), which has fun with the effect pedals between wah-wah, overdrive and distortion, over which cracks from a drummer with a delicious taste are inserted. The soul blues and filthy funky, frantic and convulsive ‘I’m Your Man’ slow to an aphrodisiac in the form of ‘Solid Sender’. Less languid and more lively than the recording, then, not leaving too much room for a rest, ‘Bad Honey’ made of deadlifts, shooting and syncopated rhythms – and then, how Alex moves on stage! He looks like a balboa dancer who, dragging his black ankle boots, moves sinuously on the cow-skin of the stage set up, with a Trace Elliot bass combo sounding robust as conducted by the full-bodied sound of Alessandro Diaferio.

The Brit and his cronies embody a powerful and rocky power trio, always dynamic, bluesy but dirty with rock, reminding me of Gary Clark Jr. at his finest. And such a profound spirit can not but pay homage to the classics, but Haynes’ choice is not satisfied with the trivial: the bomb is triggered on the shuffle of ‘Shake your Hips’ (Slim Harpo) and explodes in extreme sensuality with ‘Poor Old Mattie’ (RL Burnside) through his rough voice and the cross-stick of Leoni that gallops like a train to a finish, not before having gone through the primitive atmosphere of ‘Howl’ – supported by a rippling slide guitar and a sinuous bass-line, the cry of “one more!” brings forth Elmore James’ ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ with a slide guitar owned by the devil himself.

The full and sensual voice of a frontman – who knows how to manage the stage with skill and his guitar inside the energy of a band that skillfully mixes the different facets of the blues, knowing how to revive with personality melodies that are close to the sounds of the past (assimilated with grit and passion to the harder rhythm & blues and rock & roll of the early-Rolling Stones) – make the set a hot live scenario, able to slap all those supporters of the vaunted theory that rock is now dead. Well here’s proof enough to believe in it again.