While it's not particularly surprising that outside of guitar communities J.D Simo isn't a well-known name, it's also a big shame. Despite being a fairly prominent figure on the Nashville session scene for a while, SIMO are yet to rise to the popularity their music potentiates.
After forming in 2010 and releasing two albums, some glimmers of momentum are beginning to show. For the uninitiated, their unapologetic blues rock is in the vein of late '60s power-trios like Cream with their sets being punctuated by adventurous jams and instrumentals. As a country with a rich history of the genre, the UK is often the place for blues rock artists to build a fan base, and hot off the release of Let Love Show The Way, SIMO were joined by Fred Abbott and Second Echo at London's Camden Barfly.
Opening the night, Second Echo contributed an impressive performance. Despite their inexperience being noticeably apparent, it only helped to contribute to their rough-around-the-edges charm. Their groove filled riffs and enthusiasm were equally infectious and made up for what they lacked in finesse. It was tangible in the room that they were well liked by the majority of the audience and had clearly taken full advantage of opening for an act bigger than themselves. Indeed, they may have a long way to go if they really want to be a serious touring outfit, but they can't be faulted on effort.
As for Fred Abbott, energy was undoubtedly something missing from his performance. Coming across a little too polished for a gig of this size, his band of two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and a backing singer quickly became restricting and frankly overkill for a venue the size of the Barfly. There is little doubt a band of this size would usually work for Abbott, but much like his set in general, it was a mismatch of artist and support that seemed to leave both the band and the venue feeling a little awkward. There's clearly some good material in Abbott's repertoire, but with a sound of Springsteen-meets-Petty, it was a bit like trying to fit an Americana shaped hand into a glove fit for dirty, gritty blues rock. A good performance is usually a symbiotic affair, in which a band fires up an audience as much as they feed off them. Unfortunately for Abbott, this didn't happen for him. Yet with that being said, there was enough substance in his material and a noticeable degree of professionalism that tempts for a second viewing at one of Abbot's own gigs, where the mismatch of artists isn't going to diminish his performance in the same way.
After opening with Stranger Blues SIMO tore into roughly a two-hour set of ripping volume and equally potent playing. Having suffered a dislocated knee a few days prior, JD performed the entirety of the show seated; yet he still managed to throw himself around with so much vigour that it seemed almost inevitable the other was going to pop out too. The size of the Barfly lent itself perfectly to the now seated band and its intimacy complemented SIMO's style of spontaneous and energetic jams. These jams are also the root of the bands appeal, exploring styles that range from jazz to hard rock, JD utilised dynamics with precision. There often seems to be a correlation between drum solos and the number of people flocking to the toilets or bar, but Adam Abrashoff unleashed a solid, pounding solo with great feel which kept everyone in place. In terms of musicality, SIMO couldn't be faulted; they played their hearts out all evening and demonstrated the rewards of a three-piece working properly.
As for the set list itself, given their fairly limited catalogue, it naturally consisted of the expected, with the addition of covers of Evil and With A Little Help From My Friends. But while they may be limited in the quantity of original songs they can choose from until more albums arrive, for the time being SIMO are a must see for all fans of blues rock.
Unlike the droves of blues guitar players currently playing what is essentially pop-music, SIMO are very much an authentic blues rock outfit who play with high volume and balls. There's a distinct lack of commercialism and rather than claiming to be 'the real deal', they just get on with it. If the date at the Camden Barfly is anything to go on, SIMO are honest, raw, electric and well worth checking out when they return.
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Setlist: Right Now / There and Gone / Two Timin' Woman / Long May You Sail / Becky's Last Occupation / I'll Always Be Around / Stranger Blues / I'd Rather Die In Vain / What's On Your Mind? / Off At 11 / With A Little Help From My Friends / Evil
Magpie Salute London setlist • Life of Agony tour 2017 • Satyricon tour 2017 • Metallica tour 2018 • Maiden United London setlist • Tim Ripper Owens tour 2017 • Soto 2017 London setlist • Black Sabbath London set #2 • Black Sabbath London set #1 • Black Sabbath Manchester set •
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