Tenby Blues Festival 2021 – Day One – It’s Great to be Back!

Bella Collins Band

After a sad but inevitable absence last year, Tenby Blues Festival got off to a cracking start yesterday with three top-drawer bands giving it their all at the De Valence Pavilion.

Australian singer-songwriter Georgia Van Etten brought her smooth jazz stylings to the festival. Her debut album came out during lockdown, and she told us that touring the album was “a dream come true”.

Second on stage were The Daybreakers, three young lads from London whose huge sound made me look for bandmates, but no, there was only three of them. At least, most of the time there were only three of them. For some numbers they were joined by extra guitarist Justin Light, who is also doing his own festival show at various venues around Tenby.

Band leader Aidan Connell has impressive mutton chops and a still more impressive voice – both tuneful and smokey, like the blues should be. Having said that, though, the first half of their set was pure heavy rock, sitting somewhere between Motörhead and Thin Lizzy, but much more tuneful than either of them.

Between songs, Aidan told the audience: “Glad you’re enjoying it – we thought we might be a bit too heavy for you!”

But then halfway through the set, out came the metal bottleneck and the slide guitar, and they launched effortlessly into a series of raunchy blues numbers. Their amps had already been turned up to 11… but now they found 12… and the guitarists’ and bassist’s fingers flew around the frets until they could fly no more.

But the star of the show was the Bella Collins Band, from Cardiff. It’s fair to say that Bella’s a familiar face at the De Valence, and the crowd loved her. Her beautiful husky voice and her rapport with the crowd were both winners early on, but as the set progressed, it became clear she’d found a band to match her own excellence. 

Particularly impressive were the keyboardist and lead guitarist, often playing off each other from opposite sides of the stage. At times you really didn’t know where to look.

Then, astonishingly, the pair swapped instruments for one song only, and each showed that they could handle the other’s job with ease. After a particularly awe-inspiring guitar solo, Bella said: “How about that for a piano player?” 

That’s exactly what I was thinking, I said to myself, before I remembered where I was and shouted: ‘Hell yeah!’

Her album is Late and Blue, and after the show many of this Friday night audience went straight to the foyer to get their copy.

Before the show, we spoke to Chris Osborne, one of the longstanding organisers of the Tenby Blues Festival. He spoke of the huge challenge of getting this 15th festival off the ground. Bella Collins spoke about her nerves, after nearly two years away from large venues. 

Both must now be very proud. It’s great to be back!

The Daybreakers

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