Kevin Pollack, the manager of the Nick Bell Band, invited me to their gig at Player’s Pub in Prospect Heights on Friday, January 4th. Kevin knew I am a huge Robin Trower fan and that I had seen Trower in the mid-seventies. Kevin had told me that Nick was a phenomenal guitarist and played just like Robin Trower. It piqued my curiosity so I visited the band website http://ke9749.wix.com/nickbellband. I listened to some of the music samples, covers of Robin Trower and Carlos Santana, and was amazed at how Nick Bell sounded, so I eagerly anticipated seeing him live.
Player’s Pub was an unassuming place to see a band as talented as this. It was a good old sports bar with many TVs, a bar, good food, plenty of tables, and an area for off track betting; an interesting conglomeration. At the side of the pub, off the bar, an area was cleared for the band to set up. But let me tell you, this was no ordinary band and Nick Bell will not be playing in local sports bars for very long with the talent he possesses.
Nick Bell is originally from Moscow, but grew up in Wheeling, and is in his early twenties. So he was essentially playing a gig in his neighborhood. When I met him just before the show, I was impressed at how polite, respectful, and humble he was, something rare in his contemporaries. He was a pleasure to talk to before and after the show. People – this young man is a guitar prodigy and it won’t be long before you will be seeing him in venues where you will have to come up with significant coin to catch him in concert!
His band which is a power trio playing blues, rock, hard rock, jazz, rockabilly, Texas rock, and psychedelic rock, consists of Nick Bell on lead guitar and vocals, Brian Waterman on bass, and Gary Chappell on drums. They were also joined on some songs by Reid Blondell on harmonica and vocals. For this gig they rotated through six lead singers including Nick Bell, Reid Blondell, Christian Martell, Rick (who I did not get the last name), with the bulk of the leads performed by the female Jackie Rose, and band manager Kevin Pollack.
The band played a two set gig that was a mix of classic rock, hard rock, blues, and some oldies. All were expertly performed and well received by the crowd. Jackie Rose, during her vocal stints kept a banter going with the audience as she went through various blues numbers (Still Got the Blues), classic rock hits, and some oldies (Chain of Fools, Some Kind of Wonderful). She kept imploring the crowd to get up and dance. With her enthusiasm and the great music, the crowd obliged as the music took hold!
I have known Kevin Pollack for some time and had never heard him sing before. Kevin has a great set of pipes and blew me away with his singing. He especially shone on the Robin Trower covers including Lady Love, and especially on one of my all time favorites, Bridge of Sighs. His energetic version of Hoochie Coochie Man had the crowd up and dancing. Super vocal performances by Kevin.
Christian Martell gave ac strong vocal performance on Confidence Man. Rich Blondell also had a turn singing a Deep Purple tune, but gave especially fine accompaniment on harmonica during the show. Rick gave an enthusiastic performance of the ZZ Top classic Tush, rocking and gyrating all over the stage. Nick Bell showed he could sing as well as play, shining on Trower’s Too Rolling Stoned, and Hendrix’s Red House.
The vocals were solid, but it was all about the music. The rhythm section of Wakeman and Chapell gave a steady driving beat to the performances. But the star of the show was Nick Bell. I cannot say enough good things about him I was enthralled by his playing all night. He was masterful in whatever genre of music the band was playing. On the band’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NickBellBand/ it states that his influences are of the blues masters such as Robin Trower, Gary Moore, ZZ Top, and Stevie Ray, to harder rock such as Deep Purple. Boy, influence him they did, and this has developed him into a superlative guitarist at this early age.
Nick Bell’s solos were outstanding and I watched as audience members were standing with jaws agape while he was playing or shaking their heads in amazement. He showboated as well, displaying his talent while playing the guitar behind his back, with his teeth, and behind his neck…..all to the delight of the crowd. Gary Moore, Jimi Hendrix, and Robin Trower, are three of my guitar heroes and Nick did them proud with his playing, as well as with the other songs he played.
After the concert I went up to Nick and told him you have “an old soul.” I told him I meant that for such a young age, the music of the classic guitar idols are channeled through his very being. The next step will be composing his own music and taking his music to the next level.
But let me give you readers some advice. If you like classic guitar rock and blues, the Nick Bell Band is a band not to miss. Check out their website and Facebook page for upcoming gigs. Catch him early in his career, so later, when he is a star, you can say, “I saw him when…” I have been going to concerts and enjoying music since the mid-sixties and it did my heart good to experience this young guitar prodigy, who is quite comparable to many of the great guitarists I have seen. I wish him nothing but continued success.
Reviewed by Peter S. Sakas on January 4, 2013