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Well, what a night this turned out to be with the fabulous Kira Mac, complete with line-up changes, and a swerve in their musical direction, along with newcomers, Jayler, who have been compared to Greta Van Fleet or, as I like to call them, Led Zeppelin Junior – more on this later.

It’s been a while since I last saw Kira Mac, and on that occasion (at the Bullingdon, Oxford with Circus 66) the gig was brilliant and saw the band have the teensiest edge towards Country-Rock but that’s gone and now the band have turned their hand to a much heavier, raunchier sound and even threw in some heavy funk for good measure.

First on stage though was Jayler; a bunch of energetic young lads prepared to throw themselves around the stage. For those that don’t know them, Jayler are a West Midlands-based four-piece made up of James Bartholomew (guitar & Lead vocals), Tyler Arrowsmith (lead guitar & backing vocals), Ed Evans (drums & backing vocals) and Ricky Hodgkiss (bass & backing vocals). James and Tyler knew each other before the band expanded and became known as JA-YLER.

It’s not just the look of James, with his corkscrew hair and wide open waistcoat showing a bared chest, but some of the vocals too are in the style of an early Robert Plant (and I’m old enough to remember RP just as Led Zeppelin were starting out in 1968), as well as some of the stage mannerisms.

Jumping around the stage was not an option for these lads, it was a necessity.

Opening with Acid Rain seemed a little muted but it was a solid start and got the crowd warming to the newcomers. That muted start turned into something far more exciting with No Woman, a completely different sound altogether and probably my favourite song from them on the night. The band exude talent and with their sound laying firmly within the 1970’s rock genre they’re going to be a hit every time. The 7-song setlist went over very quickly, too quickly for some – me included. For such a young band the sound is truly accomplished and this, coupled with a brilliant stage presence, should see them rise quickly within the rock ranks. This is a band to watch out for!

Setlist:

Acid Rain

No Woman

Down Below

When You Go

The Getaway

Love Maker

The Rinsk

Kira Mac to the stage! As I mentioned earlier, it’s been a while since I last saw the band and, in the intervening period, there have been trials and tribulations as well as a whole bundle of success. The band has undergone several changes, most notably losing a guitarist, bass player and drummer leaving only the core of the band in Rhi Hill and Joe Worrall. For this tour they’ve added a bass player in Vernon Lee Whitmore and a drummer in youngster Loz Riley.

The recent trip to Canada to record a new album was much of the cause of the split but I’m hoping there will be more meat to add to this story when I interview Rhi Hill in the coming weeks.

The band were pretty lively last time out but with a bit of a country-rock twang at times. But, no more of that, now the band are down & dirty and damned loud as a much heavier sound has emerged which suits Rhi Hill’s bodacious character much more and allows her, between songs, to be her gobby self (as defined and described by one of her team and not endorsed by me in any way!).

Honorary Manc, Rhi, struts around the stage with confidence and enthusiasm matched by that of Joe and Vernon, the latter of which has added a depth to the bass lines when playing either hard rock or heavy funk – it’s a good sound.

Rhi chats away between songs and the banter goes both ways between her and the audience who lapped up the atmosphere. She is loud, proud . . . and did I say LOUD?

The band start the set with a bit of Southern Rock and Save Your Whiskey and this was followed by another slice of Southern fare in Dead Man Walking. Rhi’s rasping voice suits this style remarkably well and is backed by some fine guitar work from Joe Worrall.

Now it’s time to get hard and heavy with Chaos is Calling, a change of pace and sound for sure and then the band move back down South with Play the Game, a bass-driven song but the Southern Rock vibes are truly there. All the time Rhi is looking for audience reaction, occasional participation but, more importantly, complete attention during the songs – and she gets all of it!

The stage is big and I had hoped, unsuccessfully, that the band’s merchhand, Eve Travis (a circus performer by day), would race across the stage oh her unicycle – maybe next time eh!

Time to strip things back as Rhi and Joe get themselves a pair of stools delivered to the front edge of the stage for a subset of acoustic tunes before returning to full strength for a rendition of Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. After this it was riff after riff after blinding riff through to the encores; Downfall and One Way Ticket. If anyone hadn’t heard, or heard of, the band before tonight they certainly knew of them afterwards. The merch table was pretty much mobbed at the end of the show as Rhi and the band relocated to meet with fans. A cracking set  to end a thoroughly cracking show provided by two bands on the top of their game. If either band comes your way, make sure you go and see them, both are going places and won’t be in the smaller venues for very long. The only thing that was missing was Emily, Rhi’s nan!

Setlist:

Save Your Whiskey

Dead Man Walking

Chaos is Calling

Play the Game

No Way Out

Scorned

Say Something

Imagine What we Could’ve Been

Back for More

You Oughta Know

Hit me Again

Hell Fire & Holy Water

Never Going to Stay

Mississippi Swingin’

Farewell

Climbing

Downfall

One Way Ticket

Photos and words: Reg Richardson for FRAMEmusic