Live Review: Bluesfest Byron Bay Day One (Thursday, 6 April)

8 April 2023 | 11:26 am | Jess Martyn

Did day one of this year's Bluesfest deliver?

(Pic by Kurt Petersen)

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Bluesfest has long been the home of classic slow blues, fluttering harmonica and cowboy hats, but as much as the Byron Bay crowd loves those essentials, variety is the spice of life – on the first day of the 2023 festival.

Frank Sultana by Tao Jones

From Frank Sultana’s fluttering harmonica and gritty Chris Stapleton belt to the unforgettable funk edge of St Paul And The Broken Bones, the first few acts had much to offer; all served up with a side of the classic country hat. Dressed in a hip-hop cap and colourful jumper, St Paul put on an unforgettable show, gesticulating like a preacher and whipping the crowd into a gospel frenzy as he strutted through. 

St Paul & The Broken Bones by Lachlan Douglas

Meanwhile, a stage over, LP’s guitar and powerful vocals delivered all the same grit with simple staging and charming crowd interactions. 

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LP by Josephine Cubis

Keb 'Mo' was one of several must-sees for the day, epitomising the power of the blues and captivating the crowds with brilliant dynamic control, emotive slide guitar and clever lyrics about love, suitcases and everything in between. Am I Wrong was one of several stand-out crowd-pleasers in a set full of classic blues sounds. 

Keb 'Mo' by Tao Jones

As the day wore on, the sounds and the energy somehow got even bigger, with Kaleo working in epic call-and-response riffs between the guitar and the harmonica. The instantly recognisable riffs of Way Down We Go made for one of the day’s most memorable moments, the crowd singing along and clapping in time.

Kaleo by Evan Malcolm

Eric Gales took things back to basics with an irresistible blend of guitar solos, soulful vocals and classic covers. From Jimi Hendrix to AC/DC, there was almost nothing he couldn’t do, and as he yelled out, “If I play this song, y’all better go fucking crazy”, it was clear that he knew how to get the crowd on board.  

Eric Gales by Kurt Petersen

Next up, Paolo Nutini earned his prime spot on the bill with set-defining band breakdowns and passionate screeches. Backed by brilliant colourful graphics, an impressive band and an equally impressive falsetto, Nutini ran through crowd pleasers like Petrified In Love and Pencil Full Of Lead, punctuating each one with signature passionate screeches and full breakdowns.   

Paolo Nutini by Josephine Cubis

An unexpected highlight for the day, Tex Perkins and Matt Walker found themselves filling in for The Black Sorrows after one of the members “did themselves a mischief” and messed up his back. Their years of onstage experience showed, as did their impressive chemistry, given the last-minute circumstances of a same-day call-out. Although a great deal of time was spent tuning guitars, the music made it all worthwhile. 

Tex Perkins & Matt Walker by Kurt Petersen