Azkena Rock Festival is back another year with the highly anticipated and by now traditional program of free concerts at the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, yet another way for ARF to share its passion for music. Heading to the heart of the city, its mission is to liven up the two mornings of the festival, held on the 21st and 22nd days of June in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Both days, hours before the doors of the Mendizabala festivalground open, the party will get underway at the Virgen Blanca with a concert kicking off at 1:30 PM. Tami Neilson is in charge of revving things up on Friday, with Danny and the Champions of the World to do the honors Saturday morning.
The Virgen Blanca stage is prepared to throw a swingin’ party featuring the powerful voice and swaying hips of Tami Neilson, considered one of the most exciting artists in the current country music scene and often compared to giantesses of the genre like Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline. A New Zealander by birth but Canadian by adoption, her artistic career kicked off at a very early age with the Neilson Family, who once opened for Jonny Cash himself. Well-settled in the scene and well-received by critics, her subversive lyrics tackling a broad range of issues such as maternity, loss, and misogyny in the industry sparkle atop a colorific blend of soul, rockabilly, blues, and country.
Danny & The Champions of The World
Formed in London back in 2007, Danny and the Champions of the World offer up a perfect combination of heartland rock and soul, genres that frontman Danny George Wilson grew up listening to along with blues and doo wop, and the essence of which permeates all his projects. Bearing in mind these influences, it’s no wonder that the band’s six studio albums are a genuine homage to vintage North American roots rock, the original Americana steeped in the sounds of country western, folk, bluegrass, gospel, and rhythm and blues.
Far behind are the folksy marvels and musings on roots and the American dream of their eponymous 2008 debut, 2010’s Streets of Our Time, and 2013’s Stay True, on which they channeled Bob Seger, Tom Petty, and even Springsteen. Those albums merely hinted at the Stax flavor that 2015’s What Kind of Love would emanate, a delightful smattering of well-rounded songs leaning more toward soul than rock, with the E Street Band and Graham Parker’s Rumour at their most prolific in the rear-view. Featuring compositions that many hailed as perfect, the album hinges around Danny’s passion for telling stories about ordinary life, rock bands, the dirtiness and injustice in the world, and a tall tale now and then, making many a media outlet’s best-of-the-year list including Ruta 66, El País, Onda Cero, and NME.
Two thousand seventeen saw the release of their latest work to date, Brilliant Light, a double album featuring eighteen new songs wherein Danny remains true to his vision of soul, taking it down boot-worn trails into terrain thoroughly roamed throughout his career. With perceptible echos of Grand Drive and the folk and Americanisms of his early work with the Champions, this album further consolidates him, if possible, as one of the most important figures within the soul-spangled rock of the past few decades.