My other half didn’t make it to this gig. She’d gone out for lunch with a pal, and come down with a dose of vino excessivus. Which was a pity, because her absence depleted the audience for the Starlite Campbell Band by about 5%. But you know what? The small audience didn’t matter. Not one bit. Why is this? It’s because the Starlite Campbell Band go the whole nine yards, that’s why. They deliver good songs with great musicianship. And they put on a show, regardless of the paltry audience. Clad all in black, guitarist Simon Campbell has a penchant for a bit of Ian
Simon Campbell - "It's Edinburgh in December, it's night, and I'm in a cellar. And I'm wearing shades. Let's rock!"
Anderson style arm waving while he’s singing, for one thing. And he and his bassist missus Suzy Starlite bop around the stage like a couple of unselfconscious, if not entirely sprightly, 20-year old rockers.
The set is drawn largely from their 2017 album Blueberry Pie and Simon Campbell’s solo stuff, in particular his 2011 solo debut ThirtySix. It’s Sixties-style British blues fit for the 21stcentury, with sharp lyrics, and it’s great fun right from the rocking opener ‘Brother’, with sizzling guitar from Campbell over bubbling bass from Starlite and punchy drums from Steve Gibson, all the way through to the end of a near two hour performance.
Along with newly-flown-in-from-Spain keys man Gabriele Del Vecchio, they conjure up twitchy funk on the well-constructed ‘Preacher Of Love’, with its ‘Heartbreaker’-style riff. Campbell isn’t frightened to go for it, ripping out chords over a subterranean rumble of bass and whacking floor toms on ‘I Like It Like That’, before embarking on an adventurous guitar wig-out. And then he goes and delivers an intro to the slow blues of ‘Cry Over You’ that is pure Gary Moore at his most restrained. It’s a typically clever arrangement, to which Campbell adds a devastating solo, full of light and shade.
And so it goes on, through song after song. Starlite is a damn fine, supple and grooving bassist, who legend has it only picked the damn instrument up four years ago. Witty lyrics are scattered around liberally, and Campbell weaves guitar sorcery hither and yon to which Gibson adds sharp percussion accents. And Del Vecchio, god bless him, without the benefit of any meaning rehearsal, gets drawn into an entertaining bout of extemporised guitar/organ interplay on the smoky Sixties style blues of ‘Misgivings’. They even manage to get all spangly Beatle-ish on the brand new song ‘Take Time To Grow Old’. Campbell and Starlite - mad for it
Down the stretch there’s old-fashioned boogie with picked guitar on ‘Hot As Hell’, a cover of Free’s ‘Mr Big’ on which Starlite gets a featured spot on which she does justice to Andy Fraser on a twangy bass feature. There’s their latest digital single ‘Heart Of Stone’, which has a grinding ‘Green Onions’ groove laced with stinging injections from Campbell.
And then – and then, folks – they close out with ‘Walkin’ Out The Door’, the opening track from Blueberry Pie. And this slice of mid-Sixties style soulful blues, with some wah-wah atmospherics, gradually morphs into Led Feckin’ Zeppelin, the riff tipping the hat to the likes of ‘How Many More Times’ while Starlite channels John Paul Jones with an increasingly mountainous bass line. And Campbell goes into mad axeman mode, conjuring up a howling guitar interlude with the aid of an old-fashioned echoplex box of tricks – real analogue tape, boys and girls – ahead of an echo-laden solo. Greta Van Fleet eat your juvenile hearts out.
You probably think I’m making this up, that I had a few too many Christmas sherbets and lost touch with reality. But I’m not and I didn’t. This was the real deal, scintillating stuff, delivered to 20 odd people. Simon Campbell and Suzy Starlite are mad for the music, and mad for each other – and their enthusiasm is infectious. This tour’s just about done, but if you find them coming your way in the future - go see ‘em.
Iain Cameron of Blues Enthused is a contributor to The Blues Magazine, Blues Matters, and Blues Rock Review, Iain Cameron has been a fan of rock music for over 40 years, his interest in its blues dimension deepening over the years. Not an expert, not an aficionado, he's an enthusiast soaking up what's new, what's old, and where it's come from. Join him on the mystery train.