Sheffield O2 Academy, April 16 2017

‘Teenage prodigy’ is a tag Aaron Keylock needs to shake off. And fast.

The biggest problem facing Keylock right now is an understandable fascination with his age. Let’s face it, most musicians are only starting out on their creative journey aged 18. Most guitarists twice Keylock’s age would kill for only half of his natural talent. And blues fans the world over can’t quite believe their eyes – or their ears – when confronted with the new face of an age-old genre.

As a consequence the start of every show must feel like a test for one of the most exciting young singer songwriters in the UK. For the opening 20 minutes of an ultimately mesmerising set it was as if Keylock was sitting an A-level in blues – the expectant (and expert) audience making feverish mental notes and the fully qualified student nervously feeling his way through another wholly unnecessary examination.

Initially there was no connection. A missing vibe. A sense of uncertainty.

It took a while but eventually there was a lightbulb moment, midway through the bullish Spin The Bottle, when the doubters appeared convinced, the main man seemed settled and age suddenly became an irrelevant number. Which, of course, it should be.

By the time Keylock kicked into Just One Question the answer was obvious. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

And he is. Absolutely. It really is time to believe the hype.

Sure, he still doesn’t boast All The Right Moves and there was the odd awkward moment when another decade of main stage experience would have counted in Keylock’s favour. And if his guitar playing is exquisite (Alabama Getaway offered the most compelling proof that the boy’s a bit special) then his vocals still aren’t exceptional. But it’s a minor gripe:  there’s time yet for one of the genre’s greatest guitarists to mature into a very, very good singer.

As an overall package Keylock is damn near perfect. The looks, the songs, the musicianship and the admirable attention to detail swiftly won over the true blues aficionados taking time out to catch a glimpse of the future. It’s ironic that Keylock has penned the affecting Against The Grain – in every respect his blues pays homage to the originals. It’s authentic and authoritative. Ambitious yet respectful.

Describing Keylock as a ‘teenage prodigy’ does this modest young man a disservice. Describing him as a true blues treasure would be nearer the mark.

Setlist

Falling Again

Down

Medicine Man

Spin The Bottle

Just One Question

All The Right Moves

That’s Not Me

Alabama Getaway

The Sun Is Gonna Shine

Against The Grain

Ain’t That a Kindness