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  • Writer's pictureMark Lear

Bywater Call

Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool - October 2023 ~ I sometimes have reservations when I go to a new venue. I’ve got too many past convictions for believing what’s posted on FB or IG and now know that it’s better to wait and see for myself, especially when tonight, I head to the UK’s version of Las Vegas - well, someone christened it that years ago and people as old as me grew up with it - and a venue offering something completely different from what you might find on any of the three piers or the Winter Gardens.

The Waterloo Music Bar is a very different proposition. There’s no cabaret or dancing girls on offer, and ‘Strictly’ has absolutely no business here at all. This place has rock running through its veins. The lights over the bar are made from drums that haven’t been hit in anger for a good few years, but still have some life left in them, and there’s hard earned merch emblazoned all over the walls and ceiling - better here than on a bedroom wall that no one ever sees.

Support comes from Mike Taylor - one man and a piano and you wonder how this is going to go. He opens with ‘Mystify’ by INXS and its reasonably well received from a crowd that is still working its way in due confusion over start times. No harm done though, and he hits us with a tune from way back, Wah’s ‘Story of the Blues’ - the 80’s are forty years ago now.


Billy Joel’s ‘My Life’ and Elton’s ‘Bennie and the Jets’ confirms that this is going to be all covers, which is no bad thing in the right place but we’re here to hear blues, with a bit of soul and roots thrown in, and I’m not sure that as warm-ups go this hits the mark. Still Blackpool is polite enough to show its appreciation after each tune so on that basis we’re good. ‘Stray Cat Strut’ / ‘Never Known a Girl Like You’ and ‘Hit the Road Jack’ all get blended together before ‘Riders on the Storm’ echoes out and everyone knows there’s only one song you can go to after that… that’ll be Britney Spears ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ then ! ! (which Blackpool politely declines to join in with when invited) which also receives that mash up treatment with Howard Jones ‘New Song’. I’m guessing Mike works the cabaret circuit in the hotels at other times but at the end of the day, he was applauded for his effort and that’s what really matters.


Anyway, we now have thirty minutes drinking time before the headline, and as I’m staying over, rules must be obeyed.


Bywater Call

...were formed some six years ago in Toronto by Meghan Parnell and Dave Barnes who remain the driving force of the band with accomplished support from a solid backline and a two-man brass section that sounds like there’s half a dozen at times. And so, at the allotted hour they appear and start with two tracks from ‘Remain’ their new album, ‘Bring it Back’ and ‘Ties that Bind’. It’s a very good start. ‘Sweet Maria’ requires audience participation which might be considered a bit ambitious so early in a night, but Blackpool is well versed in this sort of thing and doesn’t need too many attempts to get it spot on.


We’re only four songs in and Parnell has Blackpool starting to eat out of her hand, but ‘Love the One You’re With’, the old Crosby, Stills and Nash classic sees the rest of the band make a play for centre stage with a cacophony of sound takes over the middle eight that turns out to be more like a middle thirty-two such was the length of time that it went on for.


Sign of Peace’ is all soul and gospel with a hook that just gets you, and ‘Falls Away’ brings with it a raft of percussion beats before the keys take over - who knew a Yamaha could replicate such a Hammond sound - but it can. And it did.


Tune ten ‘After All’ is taken from an unofficially released album especially for this European tour, according to Parnell and it’s all limited copies. “It may be released as a single but who knows” she says. Middle eight sees guitar take over with plenty of slide involved whilst a drum and bass back beat sends the call for the Indians to come riding over the hill, pounding away for all its worth - if this is released it’ll have to be an ep all on its own.


‘Arizona’ and then more new tunes come next, ‘For All We Know’ and ‘As If’ - which kicks off with some powerful drum beats and a brass intro that compliments it just fine. This song has attitude written all over it and was delivered as such, just in case you didn’t get the message. Earlier there was a huge ‘play off’ between sax and guitar but now it was time for Dyte’s horn to take on Barnes’ guitar. It was game on and back and forth they went, fighting it out between them for all they were worth. It was an absolute pleasure to see and hear.


‘Left Behind’ is our final track for the night sees bass man Meusel who’s been masked off by the brass boys for most of the night (it mattered not a jot though as bass and BV’s cut through exactly when they were needed), showed his ability with a solo that was accented by double time on the hi hat …but this was the last tune and a big finish is compulsory, this is cabaret land remember, so the build up starts, first with a little brass, then added to by that Yamaha, I mentioned earlier, which built and built until the cacophony that played throughout song four was reached once again - pulsing and throbbing as it built and built some more. Parnell’s vocals were as strong as they were when we started out an hour and a half ago. Blackpool was nestled firmly in the palm of her hand now and was glad to be there. It was a huge finish and a fine, fine way to end an enjoyable night in ‘Vegas’.


The band hit Sweden, Netherlands and Germany in April and May next year (2024) and with a bit of luck will land back in Blighty as soon as after, if not before. Here’s hoping anyway.


Bywater Call are: -

  • Meghan Parnell - vocals

  • Dave Barnes - guitar

  • Bruce McCarthy - drums

  • Mike Meusel - Bass

  • John Kervin - Keys

  • Stephen Dyte - Trumpet

  • Julian Nalli - Tenor Sax



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