A slow-gathering, but appreciative, crowd were welcomed at The Prince by local five-piece The Paper Kites. Creating a beautiful, slow-burning, country-tinged sonic world, they were a really good fit for tonight’s headline act, Portland, Oregon’s Blitzen Trapper. Young and very talented, The Paper Kites is a band to watch. While perhaps being a little bit to in thrall to Arcade Fire, circa Neon Bible, in their overall sound and approach – merrily swapping instruments during their half hour set – they nevertheless created a warm and inviting sound, with tracks like “Sons And Daughters”, “Gates” and the rather stunning “Bloom”.

Blitzen Trapper hit the stage just after half past nine to a very respectable crowd for a Tuesday night. Formed in 2000, the five-piece, whose last album American Goldwing was released last year, proved to be a compelling and highly versatile live band. Kicking off their set with the rocking “You Might Call It Cheap”, the band oscillate between country-tinged folk – highly reminiscent of the late sixties group The Band – and full on southern fried rock, reminding one of some great seventies rock such as Lynnard Skynnard and The Allman Brothers.

Both styles of Blitzen Trapper co-exist beautifully with one another. Frontman/guitarist Eric Earley exhibits a quiet charm as the band get down to creating a fantastic sound and groove on stage. What really makes this band fly is lead guitarist/keyboard player Erik Menteer. It’s a huge call, but Menteer’s style and grace behind the guitar calls to mind one Jimmy Page (lead guitarist in a band you might have heard of called Led Zeppelin.)

Yes, Menteer was that good but this was no hero worship, copycat playing. He is such a versatile guitarist, with a truly remarkable tone and musical instinct that is a joy to watch live. He also reminds one of the late, great Paul Kossoff from Free in his way of stretching and bending a note in a way never quite heard before. On tracks like “Jericho” and “Street Fighting Sun”, he was an absolute revelation. Menteer is, without a doubt, one of the finest guitarists doing their thing in the world at the moment.

This is not to sell the rest of the band short. One of the wonderful moments of the night was to watch Menteer and Earley trading guitar licks with one another on several occasions. Multi-instrumentalist Marty Marquis, with his very impressive beard and Afro, really brings something special and unpredictable to the equation as well, fleshing out the musical landscape of Blitzen Trapper.

Track high points included the stunning “Evening Star”, “Black River Killer”, the cutting “God & Suicide” and the absolutely rocking “Fletcher”, about young rednecks, which Marquis amusingly compared to our local version, bogans, when chatting to the audience.

Blitzen Trapper wrapped up the excellent set with a two-song encore, illustrating perfectly the two musical faces of the band. First up was the haunting “Lady In The Water”, where the band displayed some three-part harmonies that would have made recent visitors Crosby, Stills & Nash proud. The other side of the band’s identity was distilled into an utterly storming version of the Led Zeppelin classic “Good Times, Bad Times”, in which Menteer got to fully unleash his inner Page, along with a band firing on all cylinders.

This scribe went into the night completely blind and was very pleasantly surprised by both acts. Tonight was a great way to discover the compelling music of both The Paper Kites and Blitzen Trapper. When you see live music, it is heartening and joyous to discover new music that you want to investigate further. An excellent night was had by all at The Prince.

– Neil Evans