Popa Chubby – Live Review – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
By Victoria Holdsworth, January 2020
It was his first time in Leeds, finally bringing his – in more ways than one – massive talent to the main stage at The Brudenell Social Club. It was a solidly sold out crowd, with expectations brimming over as the big man took to the stage, to deliver what can only be described as a guitar masterclass that would have made Eric Clapton weep.
Popa Chubby, aka Ted Horowitz, is a larger than life character, and as an artist with over 30 years in the music industry, he has something for anyone who loves anything about guitars. His vocal and performance style ranges from pure blues to rockin’ blues to rappin’ blues and beyond.
Here was music you could get completely lost in – and for the second half of the set, I did just that. I must admit, my attention was divrted from keeping check of the tracks, mainly due to his distracting little fill-ins and streams of medleys. At times, it seemed like the big man got lost in himself.
Despite an early mic fail – much to his bewilderment and amusement – we were soon straight into ‘Take Me Back To Amsterdam’ from the 2013 album Universal Breakdown Blues. The rolling licks set the tone for the night, with some perfectly executed sharp staccato string picks. When the last note rolled out, his audience went crazy with appreciation as Popa settled into his Brudenell throne.
“Mind-blowing modern blues”
A flawless and improvisational rendition of Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ was exhilarating and captivating, and just when you thought the track couldn’t be improved, it did, with complex little runs and mix-ups towards the end.
Popa is a very sociable, funny and charming character, who clearly loves to entertain. He informs everyone that his new record, It’s A Mighty Hard Road, is going to be released on February 14th, which is also going to be his wedding day, before blasting into some hard hitting metal/rocking blues riffs, cutting through some sickeningly good drum and bass lines. This track was a real standout, mixed with an effortless performance. What struck me most was how Popa makes his guitar become one with himself – and he can make his axe sing like Aretha Franklin.
The contrast of old, blended beautifully with the new continued, and a cover version of B.B.King’s ‘Rock Me Baby’ has even more life and techniques blown into it, making it unique by intermingling some ‘Foxy Lady’ and Robert Johnson snippets. He even throws in some more contemporary mind-blowing modern blues influence from the likes of Lenny Kravitz and even Red Hot Chilli Peppers, before ending with a soulful Hendrix medley.
Another notable tune, ‘I Don’t Want Nobody (Telling Me What To Do)’, got the entire crowd even looser, and the blues just kept on rolling.
I heard a full range of blues tonight, from all codes of the genre – and it was nice to see a blues musician that isn’t snobby about it, as some Gary Moore-esque echoes slinked around the room, before winding into some Stevie Ray Vaughn and Kenny Wayne Shepherd shreds, then meandering into some full tilt boogies.
‘Grown Man Crying Blues’ from Deliveries After Dark was written out of the pain of a man losing his woman to the drummer of a Ted Nugent tribute act, jokes Popa. This New York blues powerhouse is an amazing story teller, with or without the music, and his life is equally as fascinating as his songs. This track was drowning in atmospheric breaks, whilst you hang on the suspense of each string, as he starts it off slow and low and then smashes it out of the park, just when you cannot stand the tension any more.
It was another new track though, that really stole the whole set for me tonight. Dedicated to his soon-to-be wife, ‘Let Love Free The Day’ is one of the funkiest love songs you will ever hear, punctuated with an upbeat, Barry White-sounding vocal. It knocked me for six, such was the diversity and power of Popa Chubby’s performance.
Here was a set filled with in-your-face blues, straight down-the-line lyrics and exhilarating musicianship all performed by one of the most charming, witty and humble men I have ever had the pleasure to watch on stage.
Look out for Popa Chubby – he’ll certainly catch you with his hooks.