Review and photography by John Bentley

Victor Brox

Victor Brox is a home-grown British blues legend from Manchester with an impeccable pedigree. Tonight The Ruby Lounge plays host to a celebration of the man’s music on his 75th birthday.

The Victor Brox Blues Train

Brox is a musical virtuoso playing keyboards, guitar and horns, as well as being blessed with a superb voice. Victor studied under numerous blues greats, including Big Bill Broonzy, Bo Diddley and Sony Boy Williamson and has played with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Marvin Gaye, Dr John, Charlie Mingus and Mick Jagger, to name but a few. Indeed Jimi Hendrix even said how much he enjoyed jamming and playing with Victor and admired his voice. In the late 1960s he was the front man of Aynsley Dunbar’s Retaliation. As well as his many musical collaborations, he has been playing with his own Victor Brox Blues Train on and off since the 1970s.

Kyla Brox

Victor’s daughter Kyla Brox is a talented blues and soul singer in her own right and she takes the stage tonight with her musical and life partner Danny Blomeley, who accompanies her on guitar. The two first met when they worked together as teenagers in Victor’s touring ensemble in the 1990s (affectionately known as the ‘child slavery’ band because of the youth of some of the members). Kyla sings with a superb voice, at times sounding Janis Joplinesque, although her voice has far more range than Janis’s. Among the blues standards they tackle is Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Wang Dang Doodle’. Her father joins the pair to play trumpet, after which Kyla leads the audience in singing Happy Birthday to Victor on his 75th, as he stands grinning and holding a full glass of red wine.

Dave Formula and The Finks

Dave Formula, another son of Manchester, is best known as the inspired keyboard player in post-punk pioneers Magazine and New Romantic band Visage. However, he was also a member of the shortlived 1960s Manchester combo St Louis Union who had some success, appearing on Top Of The Pops and on one occasion beating the fledgling Pink Floyd in a talent competition. So Dave Formula and Victor Brox are old acquaintances from the Manchester rock scene of the 1960s.

Dave Formula and The Finks

His current band, Dave Formula and The Finks are a four piece who play funky-instrumental-soul, heavily influenced by the organ-led R&B of Booker T. and The MG’s and the funk of The Meters. The band share a love of this style of music and their wonderfully flowing, toe-tapping set, starting off with The Meters’ ‘Funky Miracle’, includes many very familiar tunes, like the ska-inflected ‘The Liquidator’ (originally by The Harry J. Allstars) and Booker T’s ‘Time is Tight’. The Finks are a very musically tight outfit, with Dave Formula demonstrating his mastery of the organ and piano and Dave Angel contributing some tasty guitar licks.

Dave Formula and The Finks

The Finks eventually manage to get a few of the reticent audience dancing, but the dancefloor finally starts moving in a big way as the evening draws to a close with The Victor Brox Blues Train’s final set. Victor looks very imposing with his bushy snow-white beard, as he sits behind the keyboards (indeed he once appeared as a look-alike for Leonardo da Vinci in the film ‘Ever After’).

The Victor Brox Blues Train

Victor certainly puts his individual mark on songs, like ‘The House of The Rising Sun’, varying his singing voice to sound like anyone from Jimi Hendrix to Howlin’ Wolf. He slips in a new song, ‘Rebound Blues’, along with familiar stuff, like ‘ Mustang Sally’, that he knows the audience appreciate and can dance to. As the gig draws to a close, Victor looks genuinely moved by the warm response of the punters and poses for photos with admiring fans. In interviews he has expressed his sadness about the lack of modern day interest in the music of the blues. Indeed, tonight we have witnessed a performance by one of the last great old bluesman. Not for nothing did both Tina Turner and Jimi Hendrix call him their favourite white blues singer.

Victor Brox

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