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Cognac Blues Passions 2015

Cognac Blues Passions 2015

Cognac is famous both for its namesake and the historic town that sits on the river Charente, but every year for one week in July, it becomes a mecca for festival goers as it entices acts from around the world to come and enjoy some of the laid-back vibe that is Cognac Blues Passions...

There is something special about a festival set in the heart of Cognac town, in the beautifully manicured gardens in front of the Hôtel de Ville to be precise home to a remarkably intact Roman amphitheatre. 

This year's headline act, Lenny Kravitz, arrived from Paris to a sell-out crowd last night so we chose this as our first visit in 2015. [Full disclosure, Living Magazine is allowed one 'Passport' press pass which allows full entry all week long and a second at half price.]

Lenny Kravitz - Cognac Blues Passions 2015

Getting to Cognac at the beginning of the evening means that parking is easy - in fact, in all the years we have been going, we have never had a problem with parking close to the town's centre. With fans coming from across the region and from further afield too, this is a real plus. Meandering down the main street, past the statue of François I, the music from pavement bars and cafés is a hint of things to come. Despite the heatwave, by early evening the much fabled micro-climate around the town meant that the heat of the day had dispersed and we were left with a balmy summer's eve.

Entrance to the festival

Music on the steps of the museum

There is always a choice to be made, head straight to the main stage to grab the perfect spot for the main show or enjoy the side acts and ambiance. We decided on the latter so settled down to enjoy Benjamin Booker, an American singer songwriter based in New Orleans. The 7.30pm slot is a tough one, the audience will remain sitting on the grass with their food and drink to hand unless they are encouraged to join in, something the young performed seemed to find difficult. His influences of gospel, rock, r&b and hip-hop led to wide ranging set that moved from heavy rock to bluegrass. His rather abrupt departure left the audience bemused.

Benjamin Booker in front of a laid back audience

The pace picked up at the second stage with the arrival of Leon Newars & the Ghost Band, deserving winners of the Prix Cognac Passions 2014. An anagram of New Orleans, Leon Newars is in fact Vinz from Bordeaux, an author, composer, musician, lead vocalist who soon had the crowd on their feet despite the pull of finding a spot for Lenny later. Drawing inspiration from soul, blues, hip-hop, gospel and rock, the seven-piece band played a varied and original set as the sun went down. Catch them when they play at the Corderies Royale on August 7th as part of the Summer Sound season.

Waiting for Lenny

Leon Newars as the sun sets

Vinz aka Leon Newars

The view if you watch the other bands first!

And then onto Lenny Kravitz - what is there to say? The consummate showman who seemed to enjoy the crowd as much as they loved him. The amphitheatre was packed with 7,000 fans but the sloping sides means that there's a good view from all areas. Even though we were one of the last to arrive, we still had a great view of the stage and the large screens either side had dedicated video throughout. 

It's showtime at Cognac Blues

 

Cognac, you saved me tonight! #StrutTourPhoto: Mathieu Bitton

Posted by Lenny Kravitz on Thursday, 2 July 2015

 

Roars went up as he played his classics with a mix of more recent songs, and he was generous in his acknowledgement of the talent in his band. 

Several encores later, a contented crowd wound their way out to the town centre to enjoy the pavement bars along with more live music...festival season is full flow.

 

MORE INFO

You don't need to pay to get to hear great music - there are live bands on every afternoon for free and lots of bars and restaurants have bands on in the evenings.

There are two more nights still to run:

Friday: Angus & Julia Stone, Catfish, Selah Sue, Winston McAnuff & Fixi, Asaf Avidan: 52€

Saturday: Isaya, The Ting Tings, Manu Lanvin, George Ezra: 49€

Tickets available to download on Cognac Blues website

This year, pre-pay cards have been introduced to pay for all food and drink on site.

The Food Court

 

Read our interview with Cognac Blues creator Michel Rolland here.

 

Les photos de la soirée du jeudi 2 juillet

Posted by Cognac Blues Passions on Friday, 3 July 2015

All photos © Living Magazine