Posts Tagged ‘blues’

Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015

Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015
ian anderson tixThings come full circle. The touring band known as Jethro Tull seems to have been shelved, with Tull frontman and our manic flautist hero Ian Anderson touring under his own name, and Tull guitarist Martin Barre doing likewise. But Ian Anderson couldn’t keep away from the Tull moniker and concept for too long. So, as “a tribute to the original 18th Century agriculturalist” whose name the band borrowed back in February 1968, our hero has “imagined a scenario where the pioneering pursuit of improved crop-growing and farming methodology might apply to the world of today and tomorrow”. This led to the development of “Jethro Tull: the Rock Opera”, the delights of which Norm, Will and I experienced a few days ago at the Sage Gateshead. Anderson’s rock opera concept is this: take the story of the original farmer and inventor Jethro Tull and bring it up to date; tell that tale through the songs of Jethro Tull the band (and a few new ones written especially for the occasion), and create a theatrical stage show which takes the audience through the story. The show is very much just that; “a show” rather than a concert. The band provide the music, playing in front of a giant HD video screen. On the screen appear a cast of “virtual guests” who play the parts of Mr Tull and his family, narrate the story and sing segments of the songs. Anderson explains it thus: “Instead of spoken introductions to the songs in the show, there will be the use of that operatic device, the “recitative”, where the links are made by short sung vocal segments in a usually-simple musical backdrop”. So the songs are sung in part by Anderson live, and in part by virtual singers on the screen. The songs flow from one to the next with short video segments as bridges.
ian anderson progThe show started at 7.30pm prompt. Parking problems made us a little late, and we had to wait outside until first song “Heavy Horses” was finished (“a suitable break in the performance”). The first half was around one hour and there was a short interval before “the show” resumed. How did it work? Very well actually. The video was high quality and the sequencing between Anderson and band and the virtual singers was faultless. Anderson’s voice may not be quite as strong as it was “back in the day” so the use of video allowed him some vocal rest, and gave welcome variety to the performance. However, I must say that Ian’s flute playing remains as excellent as ever, and his stage presence and antics are undiminished. The virtual sets were as you might imagine; we were transported onscreen to Preston station for “Cheap Day Return” and deep into the forest for “Song from the Wood”. Great Tull fun. Special mention to Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir whose vocals were exquisite and made for great reworkings of Tull classics, particularly “The Witch’s Promise” and Florian Opahle, whose guitar playing was tremendous. A very different and highly enjoyable Tull evening. Great to see old friend Doug and other fellow Tullites.
What next Ian?
Part 1: Heavy Horses; Wind-Up; Aqualung; With You There to Help Me; Back to the Family; Farm on the Freeway; Prosperous Pasture; Fruits of Frankenfield; Songs From the Wood
Set 2: And the World Feeds Me; Living in the Past; Jack-in-the-Green; The Witch’s Promise; Weathercock; Stick, Twist, Bust; Cheap Day Return; A New Day Yesterday; The Turnstile Gate; Locomotive Breath
Encore: Requiem and Fugue
The Musicians: Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, guitar), Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (piano; Hammond organ), Greig Robinson (bass), Scott Hammond (drums, percussion).
The (virtual) Players: Ryan O’Donnell (the younger Jethro, and Jasper son of Jethro), Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir (Susannah, wife of Jethro), David Goodier (Jethros’ father), Ian Anderson (Narrator and the older Jethro), John O’Hara (scientist and choirmaster).

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Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames Newcastle City Hall 30 May 2015

Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames Newcastle City Hall 30 May 2015
georgiefameGeorgie Fame walked onto the stage of Newcastle City Hall, sat at his Hammond organ and started to reflect on his first visit to Newcastle. That was apparently in 1960, and a young Georgie Fame was playing piano on the Eddie Cochran /Gene Vincent tour. Georgie couldn’t quite remember the name of the venue, but a couple of members of the audience helped him out. “The Empire” shouted one, while another kept insisting (No, it was the Odeon”. I checked it out (isn’t Google wonderful) and it was indeed the Empire, in Newgate Street.
georgietixGeorgie was soon accompanied by his sons on drums and guitar, and the trio performed Booker T’s “Green Onions”. Before too long the bass, vibraphone, trumpet and sax players all joined in. A wonderful start to the evening.
A sparse, but enthusiastic, crowd had gathered for this concert which was the final night of Fame’s tour. “Get on the Right Track Baby” and “Cool Cat Blues” (dedicated to Mose Alison) kept the groove going. We were then treated to Georgie’s 1965 No 1 hit single “Yeh Yeh”. This was preceded by a great story of how Fame and his band arrived in Stockholm 50 years ago, to find hundreds of girls waiting and waving at the airport. Sadly they soon discovered that the crowd was, in fact, actually waiting for “the Saint” Roger Moore; who also happened to be on the same flight. xgeorge-fame-film-pic.png.pagespeed.ic.wupD0hASGtThe next song was a version of Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken” to which Fame had added the line “Its all F**ked Up Maann” and which we all had to sing 🙂 The first half of the show closed with Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away”, after which Georgie introduced each of the band members before they all left the stage for a short break.
The second set started with Carole King’s “Point of No Return” which features on one of Fame’s early lps. The next song, which Fame dedicated to his friend Spike Milligan, was Louis Jordan’s “Don’t Send me Flowers when I’m in the Graveyard”, followed by (I think) “Love is going to take me away” and “Listen Here”. Then we were treated to an excellent version of the Bobby Hebb classic “Sunny”, which was also a hit for Fame. The concert closed (at 9.45 wow; I love early finishes) with Mose Alison’s “Was” (“When I become was and we become were ….”). A great concert by one ’60s music greats who remains the coolest of the cool.
Georgie Fame’s modern Blue Flames are: Guy Barker (trumpet), Alan Skidmore (tenor), Anthony Kerr (vibes), Tristan Powell (guitar), Alec Dankworth (double bass) and James Powell (drums). Tristan and James are Georgie’s sons (his real name is Clive Powell).

Lulu Sage Gateshead 15th May 2015

Lulu Sage Gateshead 15th May 2015
lulutixIn 1963 a young 14 year old Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie saw Alex Harvey (before he was officially sensational) sing a storming version of the Isley Brothers “Shout” in a Glasgow ballroom. The experience clearly made a big impression; Marie McDonald soon became Lulu and recorded her own version of “Shout”, taking it into the UK top ten. An eminent rock journalist would later write: “It is still probably the best rock ‘n’ roll performance by a woman in the history of British pop.”
The ’60s was a magical time and Lulu was a big part of that magic. She was a major figure in British pop, recording a series of classic pop hit singles. In 1967 she featured in the film “To Sir With Love” singing the title song which reached No 1 in the USA (and is still one of my favourite all-time songs). In 1969 Lulu sang “Boom Bang-a-Bang”; the UK entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, and was the joint winner. Come the ’70s she was back in the charts with her version of David Bowie’s “The Man who Sold the World”.
Roll on 40 or so years and Lulu is touring again, singing a set of R&B classics and a selection of songs from throughout her career. I saw her concert at the Sage a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised just how good she was. Lulu is still in great voice, looks stunning and has lots of stories to tell. luluprogShe has a new and well-received album, “Making Life Rhyme” for which she wrote most of the songs (along with her brother who she has worked without throughout her career). She kicked the concert off with a version of the Republica hit “Ready to Go”, followed by “Relight My Fire” which she recorded with Take That, and then “Faith In You”, the opening song from her new album. The highlight of the first set was, for me anyway, a perfect version (i.e. true to the ’70s original) of “The Man who Sold the World” which took me right back. Other highlights were “I Don’t Wanna Fight” which was written by Lulu and a hit for Tina Turner (something that I hadn’t been aware of), and an acoustic set of Bee Gees numbers including “To Love Somebody” and “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You”. Lulu explained how, married to Maurice at the time, she was present when the songs were written and recorded by the Gibb brothers. I’d read that she would sing a reggae version of “To Sir With Love” and was a little nervous that this wouldn’t seem right; but it actually worked well, and I enjoyed her new treatment of the song. The sad news of B B King’s passing had just broken, and Lulu sang an excellent soulful “The Thrill Is Gone” in tribute to the great man. I wondered if Lulu’s voice would still stretch to singing “Shout”, but stretch indeed it did (and more). She performed the song as if we were all back in the ’60s; and for a short period; we were. Lulu and her band closed with the Edwin Starr hit “25 Miles” and everyone was up on their feet, singing along. Good fun; and much much more enjoyable that I had imagined.

Nick Cave Sage Gateshead 29th April 2015

Nick Cave Sage Gateshead 29th April 2015
nickcaveNick Cave is a dark moody man. His performances are unique experiences in which devotees lose themselves in an intense communion with the man himself. Part preacher, part demon, part artist; part cowboy; part balladeer; the rich diversity of a Cave performance can only be understood by those who have experienced it. Laura is a fan, and I am becoming one. There is so much to take in, so difficult to categorise. The solution is to give up trying to figure out whether the music is rock, country, soul, punk or pop. Does it matter? The influences are many; I can see and hear Elvis, Iggy, Johnny Cash, Screaming Lord Sutch, P J Proby, the Pistols, Tom Waits. He commands the stage, beckoning audience members to come close, touch him. He sings directly to them, so close to some that his face is almost touching theirs. Captivating, spell-binding, crazy, frightening, the guy has no fear, there are few boundaries. Another astounding performance complete with a series of extended encores.
Setlist: Water’s Edge; The Weeping Song; Red Right Hand; Brompton Oratory; Higgs Boson Blues; Mermaids; The Ship Song; Babe, You Turn Me On; From Her to Eternity; I Let Love In; Love Letter; Into My Arms; Up Jumped the Devil; Black Hair; The Mercy Seat; Jubilee Street
Encore 1: We No Who U R; Wide Lovely Eyes; Breathless; God is in the House; And No More Shall We Part; Jack the Ripper; the Lyre of Orpheus
Encore 2: Push the Sky Away.

Eric Clapton Royal Albert Hall London 14th May 2015

Eric Clapton Royal Albert Hall London 14th May 2015
claptontixSupport: Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders
Going to see Eric Clapton is like visiting an old friend. You know what to expect; an evening of quality music, great guitar solos, a few ballads and the blues. No surprises. Eric is 70 and is celebrating the occasion with a residency at his favourite venue, the Royal Albert Hall. His old mate Andy Fairweather Low offered friendly support and warmed us all up with a class set of blues, and solo and Amen Corner hits including “Reggae Tune”, “Wide Eyed and Legless” and “(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice”. After a short interval, Clapton wandered on stage and the birthday party started. We even sang “Happy Birthday” to him. High points were some of the best solos I’ve seen him play, a great version of “Crossroads”, “Can’t Find my Way Home” with bass player Nathan on vocals and an excellent version of “You are so Beautiful” with Paul Carrack singing. Yes, I would have liked to see him play “Sunshine” or “Badge” and the electric (rather than the unplugged) version of “Layla”; but then you can’t always have what you want. And this was Eric’s birthday, and his party, so of course it was fine that he played just exactly what he wanted to play. The programme told me that this could be the last time. My guess is that Eric won’t be able to resist playing again now and then. Hope so. Happy birthday E C.
claptonprogSpent the night at David’s and then up at 5.45am to catch the early train back “up north”.
Band lineup: Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals; Chris Stainton – piano, keyboards; Paul Carrack – organ, keyboards, vocals; Nathan East – bass; Steve Gadd – drums; Michelle John & Sharon White – backing vocals
Set list: Somebody knocking; Key to the highway; Pretending; Hoochie coochie man; You are so beautiful (Paul Carrack vocals); Can’t find my way home (Nathan East vocals); I shot the sheriff; Driftin’; Nobody knows you when you’re down and out; Tears in heaven; Layla; Before you accuse me; Wonderful tonight; Let it rain; Crossroads; Little queen of spades; Cocaine
Encore: High time we went (Paul Carrack vocals, with guest Andy Fairweather Low)

Robin Trower Stockton Arc April 7th 2015

Robin Trower Stockton Arc April 7th 2015
trowertixRobin Trower pursed his lips, sucked in his cheeks, closed his eyes, gave that familiar grimace and squeezed sounds out of his Strat that only Trower can. The wah wah peddle rose slowly to prolong those chords, and the unique blend of rock, funk and soul that has become Trower’s trademark kept a packed Arc enthralled. Robin Trower celebrated his 70th birthday a few weeks ago, and he continues to tour and record. This was the first time I’ve seen Trower live for a few years and his band has reverted to the familiar power trio format that he favoured throughout the 1970s, and returning to that format seems to have injected renewed power and energy. trowerflyer
Robin has a new album, and the set includes songs from the new release along with those old classics he just has to play. Why, he even takes lead vocals on a few of the tracks, his deep, raspy voice adding a bluesy edge to the songs, and reminding me a little of Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs.
I was standing close to the front and was totally mesmerised by his performance; the guy is playing as fluidly as ever. And the band is strong and powerful with a young bass player from the James Dewar school of soulful voices. Highlights of the night were, for me, the old familiar tunes. “Bridge of Sighs” never fails to impress, and “Day of the Eagle” rocks the same as it always did. The first encore was the track that first got me into Trower’s music; “Too Rolling Stoned”. Excellent. Support came from Joanne Shaw Taylor whose blues rock set won over a lot of new fans.IMAG0924
Setlist: Somebody Calling, Rise Up Like the Sun, See My Life, Daydream, Lady Love, Something’s About to Change, Day of the Eagle, Bridge of Sighs, Confessin’ Midnight, The Turning, Not Inside – Outside, Little Bit of Sympathy
Encore: Too Rolling Stoned, For Earth Below

Many thanks to Mitch for his photo of Robin and band

Z Z Top Newcastle City Hall 23rd November 1983

Z Z Top Newcastle City Hall 23rd November 1983
zztopcityhalltixThose sharp dressed Z Z Top dudes moseyed on down to Newcastle City Hall on 23rd November 1983 to give us a taste of real Texan boogie. The beards were long yet carefully groomed (respect 🙂 ), the stetsons were big and grand with the widest brims you had ever seen, and the relentless boogie was ….. well it was relentless. They rocked, they boogied, the City Hall shook, and they rocked and boogied some more.
Z Z Top had just released their eighth studio album, “Eliminator”, and they were hot and on the toppest of top forms. “Eliminator” sold 10,000,000 copies and remains their most successful album. The car from the cover of the album roared onto the stage at the end of the concert. Just perfect.
Wow is the only word for it.
zztopprogSetlist was something like this: Got Me Under Pressure; I Got the Six; Waitin’ for the Bus; Francine; Sharp Dressed Man; Ten Foot Pole; TV Dinners; Manic Mechanic; A Fool for Your Stockings; Dust My Broom; Pearl Necklace; Cheap Sunglasses; Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers; Just Got Paid; Arrested for Driving While Blind; Party on the Patio; Tube Snake Boogie; Jailhouse Rock; La Grange; Tush. I took the set list from a published setlist for the “Eliminator” tour. Surely they must have played “Gimme All Your Lovin'”?
Z Z Top were, and are, Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard (the one without the beard) and Dusty Hill. Support came from Australian band Wendy and the Rocketts.
Three days to go ….