BYRON Bay Bluesfest debutant, US guitarist Eric Gales, had the toughest gig at this year’s five-day music feast.
Gales, 42, drew what was surely 2017’s short straw slot for his third and final Bluesfest show — performing at the same time as the weekend’s biggest drawcard, Gales’ real-life godfather, Carlos Santana.
“I am going to be amazed if I look out there and see as many people as I see the other nights,” he said before taking the stage in the Delta Tent on Sunday night.
Gales needn’t have worried. There were even more people there for round three than for his previous two shows. Gales had a full house — and took a photo to prove it.
“I been so nervous, thinking I was going to play to an empty tent while my godfather, Carlos Santana plays,” he said.
Gales had been scheduled to race over to the Crossroads Tent after his show for a special guest appearance with Santana but never made it.
He and his audience were having too good a time to call time — even for Santana.
The show capped a triumphant weekend for a gifted artist born to shred.
Hailed a child prodigy at age 4, Gales, like two of his four brothers, learned to play the guitar upside down and left handed.
After decades of self-sabotage derailed his promise, Gales is finally poised to realise his potential after celebrating nine months clean and sober.
His 15th studio album, Middle of the Road, hit No. 1 on the Australian blues chart as he arrived in Byron to play his first-ever and only Australian shows at Bluesfest on the weekend.
Anchored by the uplifting Change in Me (The Rebirth), a sort of mission statement that explains where he’s come from and where he’s heading, — the album includes an irresistible cover of Freddie King’s Boggie Man, featuring Gary Clark Jr, and Been So Long, an original co-written with Lauryn Hill.
Gales admits he’s amazed at just how quickly his fortunes have turned since he cleaned up his act.
“It’s happening and it’s mind blowing. It’s just going as it should. In fact, that’s the case everywhere,” he said.
“It’s catapulted into an area that is like, where it probably would have been before now if I hadn’t been through what I’ve been through in life.
“Luckily I survived what I did.”
The highlight of both the album and Gales’ live show is the extended roof-raiser Swamp, which features Gales’ wife LaDonna absolutely smashing it on tambourine.
Gales said having his vocalist/musician wife in his band and by his side on the road had been crucial to his recovery.
“It’s very important. She is a very strong backbone for me and knows everything I’ve been through and everything I am and was,” he said.
“She genuinely cares about me. The music is secondary. It’s me the person that she has 100 per cent loyalty to. She’s got my back.”
Gales said fans at his Bluesfest CD signings said they were thrilled to see him live — something they had feared might never happen.
“They’re just walking up speechless. That’s true. They’re just like ‘wow man — we can’t believe it’s happening. We been waiting years. We hope you come back.’”
Punters who skipped Gales for Santana on the weekend will be pleased to learn he’s locked in to play Bluesfest again next year.
“I have had the best time of my life here,” he said.
“You blew my mind. I really appreciate it.
“It’s far exceeded expectations.”
Originally published as Oh my Godfather: Gales wows Bluesfest
SOURCE: newsnow entertainment