Words & Photos by Marco Denzer

Eric Gales, the prodigious bluesman behind the album “Crown”, nominated for a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy in 2023, is currently on tour. And fortunately for local fans, his schedule included a superb performance at the White Eagle Hall in Jersey City on February 23. A quick survey of the audience on the night of the show, before the music began, made it clear they knew exactly what they were in for: an extraordinary blues performance by one of the world’s most prominent guitarists in the genre.

Following a powerful opening set from Artur Menezes, the talented young Brazilian guitarist who led his trio for nearly an hour-long performance, Eric Gales walked on stage looking very confident, relaxed and ready to put on a show with his quintet at approximately 9 PM. He began by lightly running through some riffs before greeting the audience, and stating that his goal for the evening was to inspire at least one person. To paraphrase him, ‘I want to exchange good positive energy back and forth with you all, energy that’ll make you forget about all the craziness and trouble going on out there in the world’.

That said, Eric and his band soulfully eased into their set with “Somebody”, a quintessential ‘love gone wrong’ blues tune that prominently showcased his fiery guitar shredding chops right from the start. His second number began with a smooth and jazzy riff that rolled right into a foot-stomping rendition of the Howlin’ Wolf classic “Smokestack Lightning”, and that immediately got the crowd rocking. Featuring a slightly different band ensemble than usual, this lineup excluded his keyboardist and included a second guitarist.

Eric continued jamming through the rest of the setlist, sounding markedly heavy at times, but never straying from his amazing blues sound and style. Having an additional guitarist in the band allowed Eric to engage in some friendly back and forth banter at times, and easily satisfy the guitar shredding lovers in the house.

The remainder of the setlist included several heartfelt and passionate renditions of songs like “My Own Best Friend”, “Two Close to The Fire” and “I Want My Crown”. Compositions that are undoubtedly rooted in his personal life experiences and struggles with addiction, racism and other challenges. However, through his wonderful music and prolific guitar playing, expressing a deep sense of gratitude and humility. Eric delighted and inspired us with a message of hope and encouragement to forge ahead in spite of our obstacles, his message reminds us that light can and does eventually shine in even the darkest of places.

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