Eric Gales doesn’t just play the blues, he’s lived them. He burst on the scene in 1991 with the aptly named single “Sign of the Storm”, and since then, he has weathered more than his share of storms. He has released at least 19 records in his career, but perhaps none better than his 2022 Grammy-nominated effort Crown. He brought his stellar backing band to Hartford, CT for the last show of his 2023 tour, and ended the trek with a killer performance.
While Gales is unquestionably one of the great blues guitarists on the scene, his incredible band brings a lot of the music into a fun, 70s-style soul vibe, complete with organ and, in addition to a traditional drummer, a top-notch percussionist who also happens to be his wife, LaDonna Gales. Thanks to the orgam, tracks like his R&B dreched cover of “Come Together” get stretched out into nearly psychedelic jams that get the crowd moving in their seats, a little more Booker T than BB.
The majority of the set is based on Crown. While Gales does talk about each track, he also leaves out enough to let the listener experience it for themselves. It’s a very autobiographical record that not only traces some of his own story on songs like “You Don’t Know The Blues” but also addresses some of the current issues our country faces in “The Storm”.
While “You Don’t Know The Blues” comes off as a playful, fun song live, “The Storm” (not to be confused with “Sign of the Storm”) hits hard with it’s message. The opening line, “How can you love what I do but hate who I am”, tackles the racism the country saw through various incidents during the pandemic. As deep as the topic is though, in Gales masterful hands these aren’t depressing topics but a celebration of life and music.
For me, the biggest takeaway from seeing Eric Gales live is the love he has for what he does. The blues can be many things and reach many emotions, Gales uses the medium to not only get his message and story across, but to get you up and moving. It’s joyous, it’s fun, you don’t leave the show feeling like you’ve just been lectured on society’s ills, you leave it still dancing and singing the songs in your head. While they are in your head, the message behind them begins to seep in and that ultimately accomplishes everything Gales set out to do that night.
Prior to ending the set with the blistering “I Want My Crown”, Gales mentioned how this was the last night of the 2023 tour. He spoke about how much he loves being on stage and playing, but also loves the balance of being home with his family and being a regular person. In one of the most unique things I have ever seen at a concert, Gales introduced his puppy that stays on stage with him and LaDonna. The puppy’s name is Crown, so each time Gales referred to the record of the same name, you could hear the puppy bark.
Gales mentioned he and the band would be back in 2024 and possibly have some new music. Hopefully, the success of Crown will help introduce Gales to the wider audience he and his unique brand of the blues deserves.