The Runner Brothers [Rock Covers & Original, 4 piece]
Some pub bands are just a cut above the rest -- oozing classy vocals and outstanding musicianship.
I hadn't seen the Runner Brothers for nearly three years but, as always, they delivered a top-class performance which would delight any discerning audience.
Despite having a dep drummer (the very capable Neil Huxtable) their performance at the cavernous Butchers Arms ran as smooth as clockwork.
Nucleus of the quartet are lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Connell (ex-Chicken Shack) and lead guitarist Ian McKean (Balaam & the Angel). They have worked together for over 30 years and it shows. They perform in perfect harmony -- Brian providing the rhythm guitar and gritty, bluesy vocals while Ian mesmerises the audience with his dynamic and inventive guitar skills.
Completing the line-up is hugely in-demand bass player John Gordon, who works also with the Free Electric Band and has played with Alan Price.
The band are superb at blues and rock 'n roll numbers and they kicked off the first set with a funky version of Rufus Thomas' Walking The Dog and a fine delivery of the Steve Miller Band's Mercury Blues.
So good are the Runners that they are able to throw in a couple of their own original songs -- including Soul Shakin' written 40 years ago and featuring great wah-wah guitar sounds from Ian -- seamlessly fitting them into the set alongside the better-known songs.
The Runner Brothers are often at their best when performing good old fashioned rock 'n roll and rockabilly numbers and Elvis's Baby Let's Play House Eddie Cochran's Twenty Flight Rock were outstanding.
The second set started with more rock 'n roll -- Dale Hawkins' rocking classic Suzie-Q and Little Walter's bluesy rocker My Babe.
After a rousing version of the Georgia Satellites' Keep Your Hands To Yourself came the band's piece de resistance, their magnificent interpretation of Bob Seger's classic rock number Main Street with a blistering guitar solo by Ian, who throughout the evening gave a masterclass in guitar technique. No wonder Ian's in such demand as a music teacher.
The punters loved the band's finale of great rock 'n roll numbers as they pounded out Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula, Elvis's Hound Dog and Little Richard's Rip It Up.
Musically tight and with great growling vocals from Brian, the Runner Brothers are one of the best bands on the pub circuit. I can't wait to see them again.Monday 23 October 2017
That's a great review Colin - thanks from all the guys! Glad you enjoyed the gig and look forward to seeing you both again!
It's always great to see the Runner Brothers who are one of the best live bands on the pub and club circuit. They returned to one of their favourite haunts, the Old Bell pub in Enfield, to provide another terrific two hour session of pop, rock and soul.
The Runners are four highly experienced musicians who really know their stuff. It was obvious when looking around the pub that many people had travelled from some distance to see this quartet in action.
Ian McKean is a truly amazing lead guitarist whose intricate playing is a delight to hear. Ian adds his own little touches of magic to almost every song the Runners perform and (as I've mentioned before) as many people as possible should hear his fabulous interpretation of Bob Seger's "Main Street". It's seven minutes of sheer magic.
The band's repertoire is also well thought out and different from the average pop group on this circuit. It's not the customary "Sunny Afternoon"/"Brown Eyed Girl"/"Stuck In The Middle" material.
They kicked off with the Band's "Up On Crickle Creek", with fine lead vocals from the highly talented Brian Connell. Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me" (also recorded by Ricky Nelson) was followed by a band original -- the funky "Soul Shakin'", on which the tight rhythm section of Geoff Halden (bass) and Ollie Usiskin (drums) worked their magic. Other highlights in the first half included a gutsy version of J J Cale's Cocaine and the rock 'n roll number Kansas City.
This great four-piece outfit raised the tempo in the second part with classics like Bad Company's "Can't Get Enough" and a memorable eight minute version of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride And Joy" (with breathtaking guitar work from ex-Balaam and the Angel, Ian).
I do urge you to see the Runner Brothers.
Colin Fenn, DJ, journalistThursday 6 September 2012
Wow!! What a great review - thanks, Colin, from all the guys. Glad you enjoyed it. Look forward to catching up with you again...Kathy
The Runner Brothers are worth seeing 'live' even if it's only to hear their lead guitarist Ian McKean's powerful, haunting playing on the band's version of Bob Seger's Main Street. Ian's stunning technique gives the guitar a life of its own.
It was the highlight of the Runners' two sets at the Old Bell pub and many of the punters really appreciated the musical expertise of this outstanding quartet.
The Runner Brothers' repertoire takes in a wide range of material, from rock 'n roll to West Coast rock, blues and funk. And it's good to hear a band who do not perform the predictable, run-of-the-mill songs.
They opened their show with the Band's funky rocker "Up On Cripple Creek" followed by the rocking blues number "Mercury Blues" (made famous by the Steve Miller Band) and the Bob Dylan composition "She Belongs To Me", on which Ian demonstrated his guitar dexterity and prowess.
In Brian Connell the Runner Brothers have an excellent vocalist who handles the rock and blues numbers with great aplomb. The tight rhythm section comprises bass player Geoff Halden and drummer Ollie Usiskin.
Two songs often associated with Elvis, "Baby Let's Play House" and "Little Sister," were well received by regulars and featured some great bass playing by Geoff. The set closed with the Wilbert Harrison blues/rock classic "Kansas City."
Highlights of the second set included a six minute version of Little Walter's blues standard "My Babe" (made famous in the UK by the Pirates); a great interpretation of the Band's evocative "The Weight"; and a funky performance of Rufus Thomas' "Walkin' The Dog" and, of course, "Main Street". I reckon the Runners should tackle a few more Bob Seger songs judging from how well they performed this one.
If you live near Belsize Park the Runner Brothers are virtual regulars at the Sir Richard Steele pub. Catch them there or at one of their many other gigs. You won't be disappointed.
Colin Fenn, DJ, journalistWednesday 7 March 2012
The last time I saw the Runner Brothers there were four of them pounding out rock 'n roll and blues at their regular haunt in Belsize Park.
So it came as a surprise to see just two Runners -- founder members Brian Connell and Ian McKean -- providing the entertainment at this Winchmore Hill-based Irish pub.
How would just two of them cope with a playlist of mainly rock 'n roll and blues songs?
I need not have worried as Brian and Ian are consummate professionals who eased through a superb setlist of mainly tried and tested numbers.
The duo were lucky as the Republic of Ireland had just won a crucial Euro qualifying match against Macedonia so the punters were in happy spirits.
But Brian and Ian worked extremely hard for over two hours with just their voices and two guitars -- with not a backing track to be heard anywhere.
Brian, a former member of Stan Webb's Chicken Shack, handles nearly all the vocals while, Ian, ex-Balaam And The Angel, does all the tricky guitar bits. They work in perfect harmony and ooze class.
The pub management had asked the pair to play lots of Elvis -- and they duly obliged, kicking off with the bluesy Little Sister.
Other Presley songs that got the Runner treatment included Tryin' To Get To You, Baby Let's Play House (with a terrific guitar solo by Ian), A Mess Of Blues, Teddy Bear, His Latest Flame, Blue Moon Of Kentucky and One Night (the sexy song the BBC banned when it was first released).
Brian and Ian were not afraid to tackle rockier numbers too -- ones usually associated with a bigger Runner Bros. Line-up.
The blues classic Pride And Joy (written by Stevie Ray Vaughan) and Bob Seger's haunting rock ballad Main Street were both brilliantly handled. Ian's powerful guitar solos were a joy to hear.
Other material featured songs by Bob Dylan, the Stones, the Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent and J J Cole (the sleazy Cocaine).
Brian told me, incidentally, that the name Runner Brothers came about as an alternative to the Walkers.
The two of them have played together for some 20 years.
Colin Fenn, DJ, journalistThursday 31 March 2011
It comes as no surprise to learn that the Runner Brothers have attracted their own massive fanbase.
This rocking outfit played at Dingwalls in Camden Lock and were resident at the Washington pub in Belsize Park for seven years.
Now the Runners are regulars at that classy, historic pub, the Sir Richard Steele in Haverstock Hill.
The Runner Brothers have real star quality and are so confident that, unlike many other 'pub' bands, include several of their own compositions.
The band can work as a three, four or five piece and feature in their regular line-up former Chicken Shack guitarist Brian Connell, who also handles many of the vocals; and exceptionally talented lead guitarist Ian McKean, who previously worked with Balaam and the Angel.
Regulars at the Sir Richard Steele adore them and now recognize many of their self-compositions. The band were playing this particular Sunday as part of a music festival so their set was limited to 45 minutes.
They opened with a funky, rocking version of the Dale Hawkins' classic Suzie-Q, on which bass player Geoff Halden and drummer Ollie Usiskin demonstrated what a tight rhythm section they are.
The music came fast and furious as the Runners showed they are equally gifted at playing blues, rock or rock 'n roll.
Other highlights included the rocker Baby Let's Play House; a fantastic rendition of Bob Seger's classic rocker Down On Main Street; a funky interpretation of Rufus Thomas's Walking The Dog and the closing number, a rousing version of Little Richard's Tutti Frutti, which had the audience bopping like crazy.
The show might have been short but this is a group worth travelling to see. They are back at the Sir Richard in a few weeks when, once again, the joint will be jumping.
Colin Fenn, DJ, journalistTuesday 7 September 2010