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live gig review

Live review: Glenn Hughes performs classic Deep Purple live, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 16/11/19

“Ian Paice, Roger Glover and Ian Gillan don’t do these songs” former Deep Purple bass player/vocalist, Glenn Hughes, tells the Bexhill audience, as he explains his decision to put together a tour celebrating the legacy of MK 3/MK 4 era Deep Purple at the urging of many promoters.

Having caught Hughes on one of his more regular tours a few years ago I knew we were in for an absolute treat. The few Deep Purple classics he threw into the set-list when I saw him back then completely set the audience alight and he proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that he still had the vocal ability to hit those high notes and deliver those songs in a way they deserve to be heard. When the Bexhill date was announced I therefore jumped at the chance to see Hughes perform an entire set of Purple material.

As well as still being in very fine voice and being an absolute legend on the bass Hughes has also got himself a very good band together indeed, particularly guitarist, Soren Anderson, who handles the material amazingly well – from the classic Ritchie Blackmore riffs in the MK 3 material to the more funked up jazzy feel of the MK 4 material.

Material from the MK 3 line-up features more prominently in the set and we get some wonderful versions of classics like ‘Stormbringer’ and ‘Might Just Take Your Life’. However, MK4 Purple and , isn’t overlooked entirely. ‘You Keep On Moving’ and ‘Gettin’ Tighter’ from Come Taste The Band, Hughes’ final album with the band, both get an airing. Introducing the latter, a song he co-wrote with the late Tommy Bolin, Hughes tells us he’s played it at every gig he’s performed since 1976 in tribute to his former colleague who died that same year. The Bolin tribute is followed by a raw, emotive and absolutely majestic version of ‘Mistreated’ one of the truly classic Purple songs from any era of the band.

And while the modern-day Gillan-fronted version of Deep Purple may no longer play any of the material that Hughes originally performed on, Hughes and his bandmates are not quite so churlish. They give us a magnificently rocking version of ‘Smoke on the Water’ and, after encoring with a stunning ‘Burn’, they close with a thrilling version of MK 2’s ‘Highway Star’ – Hughes hitting all the high notes in a way Ian Gillan could now only dream of. Back in the day Bolin performed both of these songs live during his three-year stint with Deep Purple, of course, so it seems only right to include them now.

I grew up with most of the songs played tonight, from albums that were frequently pumping out of my dad’s stereo as a kid. Never having seen Hughes and Coverdale with Deep Purple first time around, however, (they split when I was aged 10 – a good five years before I started going to gigs!) I am very grateful to Glenn Hughes for giving these songs a new lease of life and providing me and many others a chance to hear them performed on stage once more. Glenn Hughes has done the Purple legacy proud with this tour.

Set-list
Stormbringer
Might Just Take Your Life
You Keep On Moving
Sail Away
You Fool No One / High Ball Shooter
Gettin’ Tighter
Mistreated
Smoke on the Water / Georgia on My Mind
Burn
Highway Star

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http://www.glennhughes.com/

Related reviews:

Glenn Hughes, London 2015

Deep Purple, London 2015

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Birmingham 2017

Whitesnake – The Purple Album

Live review: The Counterfeit Stones at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 12/10/19

From the camp swagger of a stand-in in Mick Jagger, to the fag-in-mouth rock star posturing of a wanna-be Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards to endless tongue-in-cheek between-song banter (“Don’t worry we’re not going to be doing any of the recent stuff”) a night with the Counterfeit Stones is as much theatre as it is rock gig. However, they play just great and capture the sound of the 60s and 70s Stones really nicely.

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Photo credit: artist publicity

From the very early covers (‘Carol’ and ‘It’s All Over Now’) through to the era-defining Jagger/Richards compositions of the mid 60s (‘Time Is On My Side’, ‘Get Off My Cloud’, ‘Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown’, ‘Satisfaction’ et al) through to those perennial giants of late 60s/early 70s rock mega-stardom (including ‘It’s Only Rock n Roll’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’) the band kept true to their word of not playing anything released in the last thirty years. The disco-funk of ‘Miss You’ from 1978 and what many consider to be the last really great Stones song – ‘Start Me Up’ (released in 1981) were the most recent material that made the set-list tonight.

Aside from their tongue-in-cheek personas and schoolboy humour stage name’s the band are highly competent musicians who play well together, the Nicky Hopkins soundalike adding a real touch of authenticity. Outfit-wise they eschewed the hounds-tooth jackets or menacing black suits of the early Stones and gone for a late 70s/early 80s Stones look.

The full band are:

  • Nick Dagger is played by Steve Elson.
  • Keef Rickard is played by Stuart Fiddler
  • Charlie Mott is played by John Prynn.
  • Ronnie B Goode are played by David Birnie.
  • Bill Hymen is played by Steve Jones.
  • Nicky Popkiss is played by Holger Skepeneit.

I work for a charity called Stay Up Late which campaigns for adults with learning disabilities to be able to choose the sort of lifestyle they want to live and we also run the successful Gig Buddies project across Sussex. Accompanying me to the gig was Daniel who is one of our participants and an active campaigner for the charity as well as being an avid gig-goer.

Daniel’s verdict: “It was brilliant. I enjoyed dancing. I thought I’d bring my earplugs just in case but I loved how loud it was. Afterwards, I managed to get the whole band’s autographs.”

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https://www.thecounterfeitstones.com/

Live review: Slade at Concorde 2, Brighton 21/9/19

Put together in the early 90s following the demise of the original band, Dave Hill and Don Powell’s version of Slade has now been around even longer than the twenty-five years that the classic Noddy Holder-fronted line-up managed. The band are at Brighton’s Concorde 2 for a rescheduled date following a cancellation last Christmas when drummer, Don Powell, was hospitalised after his legs gave way and both tendons snapped.

Since their last gig at this venue in 2016 there’s been a few changes. Don Powell is absent tonight. He’s making a good recovery, Dave Hill tells us, but is still under doctor’s orders not to resume work behind the drum-kit just yet. Stand-in drummer, Alex, does an admirable job filling in. The more lasting change, however, is that former lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Mal McNulty, has gone – to be replaced by keyboard player/vocalist, Russell Keefe. This has had a significant impact on the band’s sound and set-list.

On the plus-side it means that several of the hit singles that were built around Jim Lea’s piano-playing can be performed in a way that’s a far closer approximation to the original recordings. The likes of ‘Look Wot You Dun’, My Friend Stan’, ‘Everyday’ and ‘My Oh My’ do sound far, far better on stage with keyboards. On the minus side Keefe is really not a very appealing singer at all. Noddy Holder had a famously gravelly vocal delivery but there was a warmth to Holder’s voice and there was a fantastic range. Keefe’s voice is gravelly alright but has none of the latter and very little of the former.

The good news, however, is that Keefe only performs lead vocals for around half the set. Bass-player, John Berry, whose vocals began taking on a more prominent role in Slade’s stage-set during the latter period of McNulty’s years, takes lead vocals on many of the slower numbers. Keefe, meanwhile, is left to murder the out and out rockers, singing on the likes of ‘Gudbuy ‘T Jane’, ‘Bangin’ Man’ and ‘Get Down and Get With It’. My advice to Dave Hill is this: get John Berry doing vocals on everything. He’s got a great voice, he’s been a loyal member of the band for a good number of years now and while he never pretends to sound like Noddy Holder he’s got an authentic delivery and a passion to his vocals that suits Slade’s style.

Dave Hill is, of course, Dave Hill. Eccentrically-dressed as ever: a diminutive figure bouncing all over the stage, delivering the familiar solos and holding the whole thing together. The crowd respond accordingly. Both he and they genuinely look to be having a really great time. I am delighted he’s still out on the road and still giving his all to Slade. Hopefully, both Dave Hill and a returning Don Powell have a few more years of Slade left in them yet. I do just hope that they get to rethink the situation with the vocals somewhat.

https://www.slade.uk.com/

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Related posts:

Jim Lea For One Night Only – At The Robin
Interview with Jim Lea
Slade at Donnington 1981
Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the greatest Christmas record ever made
Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 2015
Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Live review: Justin Hayward at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 18/9/19

Strolling along the seafront earlier this summer I spot a poster advertising a Moody Blues tribute band at Hastings’ White Rock Theatre and a few paces along I spot another poster advertising Justin Hayward doing a solo gig at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion. Hmm a difficult one – £22.50 for a tribute or £39.50 for the lead singer of the real thing. Unsurprisingly, I forked out the extra seventeen quid and plumped for the latter.

It’s a stripped-down but not quite acoustic set from My Hayward tonight. With the man himself on vocals and guitar he’s accompanied by young guitar virtuoso, Mike Dawes, keyboard player, Julie Raggins, and flautist, Karmen Gould. Hayward’s voice is a deeper register than the one we know on the classic recordings but it’s still in very, very good shape and still instantly recognisable.

At one point in the proceedings he talks about being haunted by a ghost – the ghost of Justin Hayward, young singer of the Moody Blues between 1967-1973 – as he contends that every media interview he does, after a few pleasantries about what he’s up to these days, immediately moves on to extensive questioning about what exactly was going through his mind in great detail at very precise moments during those heyday years. A cardboard cut-out of the young ‘ghost’ in question is brought on stage to emphasise the point. Though Hayward confesses he struggles to recall much of the period, it doesn’t stop him from giving us a few choice anecdotes. And of course, it doesn’t stop him from delivering some gorgeous versions of many of those classic songs. This ‘All The Way Tour’ promised an extensive look-back at Hayward’s back catalogue and, indeed, delivers.

‘Tuesday Afternoon’, ‘Voices In The Sky’ and, of course, ‘Nights in White Satin’ among many others from the Moody Blues catalogue, ‘Who Are You Now?’ from his recording work with John Lodge, not to mention ‘Forever Autumn’ from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Even in more stripped-back mode without a full electric rock band behind them the songs are still lush and beautiful and highlight what a fearsomely talented song-writer Hayward is.

Coming back on stage for an encore he picks up his red electric for a wondrous rendition of ‘Blue Guitar’. It’s back to the acoustic for ‘The Story In Your Eyes’ and ‘I know You’re Out There Somewhere’ and Hayward and his band-mates leave the stage to rapturous applause.

Set-list:

Who Are You Now?
Dawning Is the Day
Tuesday Afternoon
Voices in the Sky
The Actor
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Haunted
The Western Sky
Forever Autumn
Never Comes the Day
Your Wildest Dreams
Question
Nights in White Satin
Blue Guitar
The Story in Your Eyes
I Know You’re Out There Somewhere

http://www.justinhayward.com/

Live review: Pouk Hill Prophetz – charity gig for Dementia UK, St John’s Wood, London 15/6/19

Named after a piece of ruggedly inclined open space in the West Midlands and the title of an early Slade song, the Pouk Hill Prophetz got together and began to perform the occasional gig through a shared love of all things Slade. Tonight the three musicians, Nigel, Martin Brooks and Trevor West, get together to put on a charity gig – celebrating the 70th birthday of Slade’s Jim Lea with all money raised going to Dementia UK.

The gig tonight is just a stone’s throw from the historic Abbey Road studios and meant I had to cross that very famous street in order to get to the venue. Feeling a bit too embarrassed to use the zebra crossing along with all the tourists I thought I’d walk down a bit and make my own way across. I wasn’t concentrating properly, however, and almost got run over. That’ll teach me.

I get to the gig in one piece though. As usual, there’s a lot of Slade in the set-list – and it’s not just the well-known hits of the glory years, either. These guys like to dust down some of the very early material from Slade’s pre-glam days as well as the glam classics. And it’s not just about Slade either, with songs from Sweet, Queen and T-Rex thrown in for good measure. And while their stage-wear might suggest they are every inch the glam tribute act, their delivery is very much their own and draws on much broader rock influences. The absolute highlight of the evening, however, is not a cover version at all but an original. ‘Old New Borrowed and Blue’ is a poignant, bitter-sweet piano and vocal ballad that pays tribute to Wolverhampton’s finest, celebrating the Slade story with as much love and affection as ‘Saturday Gigs’ celebrates the Mott The Hoople story, albeit written from the fans’, rather than the band’s, point of view.

Some raucous glam classics, some poignant acoustic numbers and the first public performance of the aforementioned self-penned tribute, Pouk Hill Prophetz celebrate Mr Lea’s 70th birthday in fine fashion and raise a tidy sum for one his favourite charities in the process.

https://www.facebook.com/Pouk-Hill-Prophetz-852856794762299/

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Related:

Slade Convention 2016

Pouk Hill Prophetz raise thousands for brain tumour research

Live review: Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou at Kino Teatre, St Leonards 14/6/19

Tonight’s Kino event with Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou is actually a three-parter: not only a full set from St Leonards’ own nationally-acclaimed indie-folk duo playing on home turf as well as support from another talented local singer-songwriter, Hayley Savage, but also a screening of Trevor Moss’s own film ‘Live In Store’ that documents the duo’s nationwide tour of in-store appearances at independent record shops in support of their album Fair Lady London at the end of last year.

We start with the latter. Moss explains that as a record of the tour the film is inspired by the rough and ready footage of childhood celebrations on his parents’ Super 8 film camera. Shot in black and white the effect is like moody atmospheric arthouse cinema meets shaky pre-VHS, pre-digital family film-show. As a film genre Moss pulls it off brilliantly. And as their couple’s young toddler son also accompanies them on many of their travels the style seems somehow wholly appropriate. Motorways, record stores, Travel Lodges, local radio studios and repeat and repeat – the film captures the humdrum rhythm and repetitiveness of days spent touring but interspersed with the magic that is live performance as they play their songs to appreciative punters between the record and CD racks. As Moss states in the closing credits lets hope such places continue to remain a feature of everyday life rather than a strange curiosity from the past.

Hayley Savage’s brand of folky Americana works for me, for sure. A heartfelt singer songwriter, a lovely warm sound from her semi acoustic guitar that lends itself perfectly to the material and superb backing from her band (Ruby Colley, Lizzie Raffiti and Victoria Howarth) I’d certainly be keen to catch these again.

After seeing Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou ply their wares and play their songs in one record store after another in the earlier film, it’s perhaps a bit of a novelty seeing those songs being performed live on a proper stage in the altogether grander surroundings of the Kino Teatre’s domed auditorium. The duo’s performance loses none of its intimacy though – either with one another or with us the audience. There’s plenty of songs from the recent album Fair Lady London, including beautiful renditions of ‘We Should’ve Gone Dancing’, ‘Everything You Need’ and ‘I Could Break You’ together with a smattering of older material. The voices, the guitars, the lyrics, the vintage keyboards – pretty much every component of Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou act as a duo blends to perfection.

http://www.trevormossandhannahlou.com/

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Previous reviews:

Album review – Fair Lady London

Record Store Day 2017

Live review: Mott The Hoople ’74 at Shepherds Bush Empire 27/4/19

Back in the early 80s, I was on a voyage of discovery voraciously buying up the back catalogues of some of the great bands of the late 60s and 70s. Many of the big beasts – the likes of Deep Purple and Humble Pie and, yes, Mott The Hoople had called it a day by then. Even though such bands were at their commercial height less than a decade previously they seemed to inhabit a completely different world to the early 80s music world of my teenage years. I loved the records. I absolutely adored both the ‘Mott’ and ‘The Hoople’ albums, in particular, but I never really entertained the idea of seeing Mott The Hoople live on stage. A brilliant slice of rock n roll history? Indeed. But they were the past and I could, at least, enjoy Ian Hunter’s impressive solo career.

That all changed in 2009, of course, when the short run of reunion concerts by the original line-up were announced. Jubilant, emotional and electric the one small niggle about the reunion, and of a further run in 2013, is that while they rightly celebrated the band’s original line-up, they didn’t do justice to the input of the later members – namely Ariel Bender on guitar and Morgan Fisher on keyboards.

Again, I accepted this as a small niggle in an otherwise perfect reunion. I never really entertained the idea that I’d get the chance to see it put right. On the way to Shepherd’s Bush Empire I was feeling quite emotional about having the opportunity to see it become reality after all, and remembering back to the time when I first happened upon this veteran band in a second-hand shop in Preston as a teenager. This was always going to be more than just a gig. I want it to be special. They more than deliver on that.

Songs from ‘The Hoople’ – Mott The Hoople’s brilliant final studio album (and the only one to feature Fisher and Bender) feature prominently: the camp splendour of ‘The Golden Age of Rock n Roll’, the glammed-up deliciousness of ‘Roll Away The Stone’, the glorious insanity of ‘Marionette’ and many more.

At earlier dates on the tour there had been some online disquiet from fans about the quality of Bender’s playing. True, he was never going to be Jimmy Page (or Mick Ralphs for that matter) but his over the top antics and tongue-in-cheek craving for adulation were an essential component of late-period Mott’s 70s stage act – and so it proves tonight. Moreover, Bender’s blunt in-yer-face guitar work really suits the proto-punk of those early Mott songs like ‘Walking With a Mountain’ and ‘Rock n Roll Queen’ that Bender made his own when he became part of the band.

Fisher, always a magnificently talented pianist, when he’s not tottering around the stage with copious glasses of white wine, gives us many wonderful musical flourishes on the keys. With the untimely deaths of Dale Griffin and Overend Watts the ranks of Hooples are sadly depleted but Ian Hunter’s long-time side-kicks in the Rant Band, gifted musicians all, do a seamless job co-opted into the on-stage madness that is Mott The Hoople.

Hunter’s unmistakable voice, as ever, is in fine form. At 80 he shows no signs of slowing down, of losing his grip as a performer or his creativity as a songwriter. However, if this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Mott the Hoople – thanks for a great trip….

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Set-list:

American Pie / The Golden Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll
‪Lounge Lizard ‬
Alice
Honaloochie Boogie
Rest in Peace
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Pearl ‘n’ Roy (England)
Sucker
Sweet Jane
Rose
Walking With a Mountain
Roll Away the Stone
Marionette
Jerkin’ Crocus / One of the Boys
Medley: Rock ‘n Roll Queen / Crash Street Kidds / Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On / Mean Woman Blues / Johnny B. Goode / Violence / Cleveland Rocks / You Really Got Me
All the Way From Memphis
Saturday Gigs
All the Young Dudes

 

https://mottthehoople.com/classof74/

Related reviews:

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2016

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 2016

 

Live review: Steeleye Span at St Mary the Virgin Church, Ashford 13/4/19

It’s 2019 and yet another band are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. That post beat-boom period of the late 60s to early 1970s was a period of exceptional creativity in popular music, perhaps unparalleled. From hard rock, glam rock, prog rock and, indeed, folk rock so many bands and styles made their mark and we are lucky to have a good number of them still touring today.

Steeleye Span are not resting on their laurels, however. This tour is about far more than a career retrospective from the band’s weighty back catalogue. The band have a new album out and songs from that are given as much prominence in the set as some of the old favourites. The album is not officially released until June but it’s available for sale on the tour so you can get a sneak preview via both the stage and the merch desk. In contrast to the epic prog-folk of the band’s Wintersmith album of a few years ago Est’d 1969 is very much in the spirit of the band’s ‘classic era’ early 70s albums, both in terms of song choices and overall sound. A version of Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’, an adaptation of John Masefield’s poem ‘Roadways’ and various traditional ballads from the album are among the songs performed tonight. Of course, there is room, too, for a good number of Steeleye Span favourites like ‘One Misty Moisty Morning, Alison Gross and Black Jack Davey. A new song, the beautiful ‘Reclaimed’ written by Prior’s daughter and sung a capella forms part of the encore, along with the ever-present ‘All Around My Hat’.

With a line-up that’s always been evolving only Maddy Prior remains from the band’s earliest days. Unlike those other veterans of the folk rock scene, Fairport Convention (whose fluctuating line-up has stabilised in recent decades), Steeleye Span continues to evolve. Jessie May Smart, who replaced long-standing fiddle player Peter Knight a few years ago, is currently on maternity leave so her place on this tour is ably filled by classical violinist Violeta Barrena. Lining up alongside Maddy Prior, the rest of the band’s current members are Julian Littman, Andrew Sinclair, Roger Carey, Liam Genockey and Benji Kirkpatrick. Talented players all, they bring a fantastic assortment of instruments, sounds and techniques with them, not to mention a rich array of voices.

Although rightly celebrated as icons of folk rock this band have always continued to vary their style, their set-list and, very often, their line-up from tour to tour which means there’s always an element of the unexpected and nearly always something very special to look forward to. Long may that continue.

Set-list

Harvest
One Misty Moisty Morning
The Elf Knight
The January Man
Alison Gross
Old Matron
Thomas The Rhymer
Tam Lin
Roadways
Black Jack Davy
Little Sir Hugh
The Weaver And The Factory Maid
King Henry
Seventeen Come Sunday
Domestic
Reclaimed
All Around My Hat

http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

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Related reviews:

Steeleye Span live 2017

Interview with Julian Littman

Steeleye Span live 2015

Steeleye Span live 2014

 

 

Live review: UFO at Shepherds Bush Empire 4/4/19

The house lights dim on a packed auditorium and a bell tolls. This isn’t the doom-laden intro to an epic number like Sabbath’s ‘Black Sabbath’ or AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ though but rather the familiar clink-clank-clank of time being called at your local. For this is UFO and this is the Last Orders Fiftieth Anniversary Tour, marking both the band’s five decades together and their final set of gigs together. Fiftieth anniversary tours and farewell tours are both, of course, something we are seeing rather a lot of in the world of classic rock these days.

The band’s legendary guitarists, Michael Schenker and his replacement Paul Chapman, are long gone and bass player, Pete Way, bailed out a decade ago. However, the band still boasts vocalist Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker and keyboard player/rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond. Three out of five is definitely not bad for a rock band of this vintage these days.

Although never in the mega-league of stadium rock bands UFO have been a phenomenal presence in the UK rock scene and beyond. While they are rightly acknowledged for Schenker’s virtuoso guitar work back in the day, it must also be remembered, that UFO gave us a slew of absolutely classic songs. Indeed they’ve probably left us with significantly more truly memorable songs than some of the bands in the stadium-filling mega-league. It’s very much about celebrating those songs tonight and the classics come thick and fast: ‘Lights Out’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’. ‘Love To Love’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’ and many more. The impressive ‘Burn Your House Down’ from the band’s Seven Deadly album and ‘Run Boy Run’ from 2015’s A Conspiracy Of Stars get a look in representing the more recent material but it’s mainly a night for the familiar classics. The band are in fine form, guitarist Vinnie doing a great job replicating some of Schenker’s most famous solos.

Mogg’s trademark geezer-down-the-boozer stage patter belies the fact that this is a historic moment – as the band’s history as a live act draws to a close. There’s another gig in London tomorrow night but Mogg’s on-stage banter is firmly focused on such weighty matters as Albert Steptoe’s junkyard and some waitress in Glasgow not knowing who Jimmy Page is rather than any overblown pomposity or thank you speeches. The venue is absolutely rammed as we say our goodbyes, however. (Too rammed if truth be told – Shepherds Bush Empire frequently seem to be over-selling their gigs beyond human comfort levels these days,) Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Cheers UFO!

Set-list:
Mother Mary
We Belong to the Night
Run Boy Run
Venus
Lights Out
Baby Blue
Only You Can Rock Me
Burn Your House Down
Cherry
Love to Love
Makin’ Moves
Too Hot to Handle
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot

http://www.ufo.band/latestNews.html

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Related review:

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire

Live review: The Story of The Blues at The Printworks Hastings 21/3/19

Tonight’s The Story of the Blues tells the tale of one of Black America’s most celebrated and influential contributions to popular music through a combination of archive film footage, spoken narration and live performance. Put together by Hastings’ own Green River Blues Band, the town’s Printworks venue is absolutely packed out for them.

Having a fascination with this genre, both in its original country blues acoustic format and its later electrified form (not to mention the influence it had on both American rock ‘n’ roll in the 50s and the British beat groups of the 60s) this was always going to be a must-see for me as soon as I saw it advertised. I was a little worried that if the band didn’t quite get the tone right that, however accomplished they are as players, we might end up with something that ends up being over-romanticised and shall we say a little saccharine Opening with Sam Cooke’s 1961 hit ‘Working On The Chain Gang’ I thought we may be at risk of going down this route but any notions that they might not pull this off are soon dispelled. Narrator Jonathan Linsley talks us through the early roots of the blues starting with the shameful brutality of the slave era and the spirited songs of defiance that arose from that. The film footage that plays on the screen behind reveals a highly moving montage of images, from the almost impossible to absorb images of slave-sale stores on US high streets through to footage of some of the heroes of the emerging blues scene in action. The six-piece Green River Blues Band deliver a passionate and skillfully-played set taking us through early songs like ‘Take This Hammer’ and ‘Pick A Bale of Cotton’ through to later songs like ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Sweet Home Chicago’. Between songs narrator, Jonathan Linsley gives us glimpses into the lives of some of the performers like Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Robert Johnson.

After a short interval and the band are back one stage, the acoustic guitars now being replaced with electric. Now we move later into the mid-twentieth century, the band presenting us with timeless classics like ‘Got My Mojo Working’, ‘Smokestack Lightning’ and ‘Little Red Rooster’. Of course, though these remain well-known classics today by the 1960s many of the songs, and certainly many of the performers, had fallen into obscurity – until, of course, picked up, adapted and re-popularised by a bunch of middle-class white boys on the other side of the Atlantic. The show touches on this and clearly this was the entry-point for where the blues came into the lives of the guys on stage tonight.

The show celebrates the songs and those who created and performed them while pulling no punches in terms of the poverty, the hardship and, often, the brutality of the environment that the blues sprang out of. A moving and passionate celebration of the genre the biggest surprise is possibly that this is not some slickly-produced show that regularly tours the country but that tonight is strictly a one-off, put together out of love with all profits going to a local good cause.

If the Story of The Blues were to be rolled out beyond a one-off night in Hastings Printworks, however, I am absolutely certain it would find appreciative audiences in many venues. The Story of The Blues is a genuine triumph for those who put this together.

https://www.facebook.com/Greenriverbandpage2016/

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