Chantel McGregor

The Cluny, Newcastle

2 September 2017

I didn't own Chantel McGregor's CDs or know any of her music, but I knew she's a good guitar player, and a lot people who's opinion I respect have been telling me for years that I should see one of her shows. So finally, despite a long and difficult day's travelling when I really didn't want to go out again, I dragged myself into town to the Cluny to see what all the fuss is really about.

Surprisingly, she came on stage with just an acoustic guitar and started and singing and playing. And I thought, yes, good voice, very nice fingerstyle sound, perfectly fine song, but ... this isn't what I was led to expect. A drummer and bass player joined her for the third song, but it's still ... not a rock gig. Which is fine, I go to a lot of not-a-rock gigs and I'm perfectly happy with acoustic music, but I'm still a bit bemused.

And then half way through the third song she swapped to an electric guitar (I think an Ernie Ball Musicman, for people who care about such things) and she turned into ... I wanted to give a comparison here, but I can't think of another player I can name who was ever this good.

My jaw hit the floor and stayed there for the rest of night.

Oh my God, you wouldn't believe how good Chantel McGregor is on an electric guitar. Fast, powerful, technically dazzling but always with a beautiful tone and strong musical idea even through the wildest freak-out solos. No noise-for-the-sake-of-showing-off, but beautiful playing that's just naturally jaw-dropping.

Her band is top quality, excellent musicians in their own right but also knowing exactly when to drop back to playing just the right level of backing to let the guitar solos shine.

The show is unpretentious, no-nonsense, not at all theatrical, just all about music. She has a nice friendly rapport with the audience but there's nothing showy about her stage act, she just stands there and plays the best guitar solos you'll ever hear.

Her music is blues-based hard rock with hints of Hendrix-style psychedelia and other influences. It's loud, and powerful, and she has a great voice for rock but mostly ... she's just the best guitar player you'll ever hear.

Am I getting my point across here? Look, Chantel McGregor is just a phenomenal guitar player. That's all you need to know. So don't wait as long as I did to see her, go and see her now.

The set lasted around 90 minutes, all original music I think (if there were any covers, I didn't recognise them) and ended just barely early enough for me buy a t-shirt and both CDs before sprinting to get the last train home. To be honest, I would have stayed and walked home if it had gone on longer. It was worth it.