Chris Rea

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Chris Rea: Bournemouth International Centre

WHEN Chris Rea went under the surgeon’s knife a  year or so ago it was touch and go whether he’d survive. 

In the event he emerged minus a large proportion of his insides but reborn as a musician.

Rea was always a snappy guitarist and a useful tunesmith but had a tendancy to get coerced by greedy record company excutives into lucrative but flabby excercises in AOR crowd-pleasing.

Last night a packed house at the BIC saw a leaner, sharper and altogether more positive Rea play a blinding set that had them begging for more.

 Backed by a multi-talented, super-slick four piece band this was essentially Chris Rea Delta blues man with his bottle-neck on his finger and an ache in his soul hollering out extrordinary songs about pain, faith and redemption.

 But it was much more too. The band included, as well as drums, bass and guitar, an accordion and occasionally banjo and ukulele too. Rea himself had an arsenal of guitars ranging from jaw-on-the-floor custom-made deluxe models to one fashoned out of an old petrol can.

This was a musical journey that travelled from the Mississippi delta to the townships of South Africa and the beaches of Jamaica with just a touch of Zydeco here and New Orleans there. Even the good old fashioned American swing of Glenn Miller got a look in. And for old time’s sake he did play a handful of old favourites including of course The Road to Hell. Personally I could have done without that little treat. But it did serve to remind us who were watching: a man who in a very recent previous life had entered into a kind of reverse Faustian pact with the record company suits. 

The money, the Ferrari in the garage and the stadium gigs were no compensation for his love of the blues but it took a life-threatening medical condition to make Rea reassess the direction of his musical path.

Support came from former Squeeze songwriter and guitarist Chris Difford who with chums guitarist Francis Dunnery and singer Dorie Jackson gave a pleasing if unremarkable performance of songs old and new. 

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2017