By Anita Stewart, Managing Editor and Chyrisse Tabone, Photographer
Venue: Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in Downtown Clearwater, FL
Show Date: December 8, 2022
We at Rock at Night have been fans of Eric Gales for quite a while, and the last time we saw him was with the Allman Family Revival at the Van Wezel in Sarasota last year. You can check out that story HERE. This past October, I did a podcast interview with Gales right before he received his first Grammy nomination and you can hear it right HERE. You can also hear the album “Crown” in its entirety at that link. Gales got the word in November that he was nominated for the category of Best Contemporary Blues Album for the recording that was released last January to critical acclaim. At Thursday’s concert in Clearwater, Florida, he said excitedly, “I’m pinching myself every day because I have my first Grammy nomination.”
Gales is a great entertainer in constant motion while on the stage. He is not shy or afraid to have lively conversations with the audience. His goal for this tour was to play the Crown album for his fans; songs were interspersed with his segue “putting the needle on the record…” His idea about playing the entire album during this tour was this: many of the Grammy-nominated artists never get their music heard so he wanted to make sure his fans had an opportunity to listen to the songs.
I can’t even describe how happy this live show made me feel! Every song the band played was sublime. The only deviation from the set list was the addition of an older, funkier song that got everyone moving. On many occasions the crowd shouted support, love and encouragement. People danced in the aisles and the music got standing ovations from the audience. My evening favorites were “Too Close to the Fire” and “I Found Her,” which is a beautiful tribute to his wife. The first song is an epic rocker that starts slow and rises to a dramatic finish with a moving guitar solo and enigmatic lyrics. The latter song was stripped down for the live performance but still beautiful. On the recording, the song has a European flair with a mandolin and accordion in the background, and the acoustic guitar parts are reminiscent of Spanish guitar. “This is what she means to me,” he said.
Gales looks at his shows as a type of spiritual therapy for himself to keep him in recovery (6 years so far) and is always aspiring to be humble, grateful, and aware of the power up above that saved him and helped him turn his life around. His early life was tough, but through it all he has managed to record 19 albums and play with the greats that has resulted in creating a name for himself. He is respected by his peers and has countless musical connections and collaborations to prove it. Some of those include heavy hitters such as Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana, Kingfish Ingram, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Gary Clark Jr. and many more that would be impossible to list here.
At other times in his life, Gales was incarcerated but he credits much of his total transformation to his wife and manager, LaDonna, who has aided him on the straight and narrow path. “After 19 albums I did not give up. I am still here with a bad ass woman by my side! And, I have gratitude. I have released happiness and wealth into my life.” He has discovered the formula that works for him, and he appears genuinely whole now. When the Gales are home, they attend their local church and are part of the music ministry there.
Artists joining Gales on this tour are LaDonna Gales on drums, percussion and vocals, Smokeface on bass, Nicholas Hayes on drums, Jonathan Lovett on keyboards and the newest band member, Dave McMurray on sax. Eric appreciates his fans and came out to the merch booth immediately after the show to connect with everyone and we had a few moments to chat with him.
If you have not heard the Crown album, do yourself a favor and check it out! Be sure to watch the video for “I Want My Crown,“ the album’s title song, which features Eric’s good friends, Joe Bonamassa and Keb ‘Mo’. Also, you can see Gales and his band live–the upcoming tour dates are HERE, so be sure to get your tickets early. The first part of 2023 will have Gales and his band touring with the legendary Buddy Guy. Indeed, not to be missed! We wish Eric Gales the best of luck at the 2023 Grammy Awards!