Dr Feelgood at The Assemblies, Leamington Spa 14/11
Double Header With 9 Below Zero
A first visit to the restored Art Deco Assembly Rooms at Leamington, along with the many others who had turned out for this double header. 9 Below Zero are a blues band with a touch of punk, fronted by guitarist and vocalist Dennis Greaves, alongside ace harp player Mark Feltham, looking like he had been hauled straight from a film set of The Green Hornet, with his brimmed hat casting a distinct mask over his eyes. It did not affect his stunning harmonica play however. The band is featured elsewhere for the same tour, so I will concentrate on the good Dr.
The band had its roots planted way back in 1971, though today’s line up differs completely from those times, the band still has serious pedigree, and retains that smack in the face performance that has always been their trademark. Drummer and bassist, Kevin Morris and Phil Mitchell (no not from East Enders) joined in ’83, guitarist Steve Walwyn, in ’89, and vocalist front man Robert Kane in ’99. The performance is electric, it grips from the first notes, as Steve strangles his Fender, Rob must be one of the best, full on, front men around, he bursts into the opening song ‘Through The City’. A splendid ‘Who Do You Love’, is rattled out like a machine gun, hard hitting, taking no prisoners. Its not long before arguably their greatest song is growled out, it has to be, ‘Milk & Alcohol’, simply fabulous, we all want more of this nectar. What can be better than this, well a punchy punkticious ‘Roxette’, comes pretty damned close, the band can do no wrong, and there is plenty more in the back catalogue to throw to the baying crowd. As original front man Lee Brilleaux is quoted as saying, People don’t talk about an orchestra and say, ‘Oh. Are ya still playing that f*****g old Beethoven stuff?’ Why should they say the same to us?’\so sticking in that mid 70’s vein ‘Down By The Jetty’ was duly delivered. Steve Walwyn, never shy in coming forward, especially so close to his home town, gave a scintillating, neck bending, fret threatening performance, whether on his Telecasters or the brutish looking steel plate sandwich, that gets the slide treatment. He personifies the whole ethic of the Dr Feelgood band and its history, Wilko may be missed, but Walwyn more than makes up. We cannot see the evening off without a couple more crowd pleaser’s, of course it has to be ‘Down At The Doctors’, and we are ecstatic to be there, ready to take ‘One More Shot’, to speed us on our journeys home. Brilliant, like all great bands, they leave you wanting more.
words and photos Graham Munn
Notorious Brothers @ POW Ledbury 09/11
Yes, I’m there again, back at my favourite Sunday afternoon haunt, this time to see the outrageous Notorious Brothers, perform, and watch the facial contortions as the glorious tones issue forth from Melvyn Hancox’s Gibson guitars. We were taken to the psychedelic home of Melvyn’s imagination, a bit of peace and love, before finding the path to a fabulous ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, and a cuttingly gritty, ‘bad To The Bone’. Melvyn had brought along an ‘apprentice’, in the form of Greg Blackburn, who was invited to take the mic along with his Strat and perform an excellent ‘Pride & Joy’. Greg may have appeared a little quiet and shy, (Melvyn makes up for any shortfall!) but he can certainly play that Fender, Joining in later, for a duelling guitar session that left us all spellbound. Some tub thumping, cymbal smashing, drum beats emanating from Richard Rivett, adding to the vocals on some songs, he sits behind his monstrous set, with a smile on his face. Mark Harris on base seems equally amused, as Melvyn continues in his court jester role, whilst somehow playing sublime weeping guitar notes. A brilliant bit of Zep follows soon enough, ‘Whole Lot Of Love’, seems to fit the bands ethos like a sharp suit, way down inside, what more do you need! Mark’s base starts an instantly recognised pulsating rhythm, joined by Rich on the cymbals, its Albatross, and Melvyn is in his element, wings spread, riding the thermals. A partly consumed glass of ale, comes into play for some slide, would you expect anything else!
Mark plays on into the evening, a broken E, and no replacement, forces a quick retuning down to a 3 string base, I cease to note what is being played, the atmosphere is euphoric, the ‘girls’, are filling every inch of floor space, we have to be careful not to spill our beer. The clock seems to race on, nobody cares, nobody leaves. Its been an an excellent evening of entertainment, from the Notbros boys, who just love to play; added to that the bonus of a youthful Greg Blackburn, it had become a guitarfest not to be missed.
Words and photos Graham Munn
John Mayall at Birmingham Symphony Hall 05/11
+ King King
John Mayall has returned to the UK from his Canadian home, to tour in his 80th year, that’s quite a mission, and you would be excused in thinking that this may be a tour too many. Yes, he is no doubt, a little less able, he uses notes to prompt his lyrics, he probably does not play guitar like he used to either, but then he always had a Clapton or a Green to lead. He does however, still perform on keyboards, and harp well enough, in fact, plays extensive harp led songs, his voice may have lost its strength, but its still distinctly Mayall, and he is remains sprightly even as an octogenarian.
He is importantly, supported by some very able musicians, also from over the water.
Not unlike many performers, the start was steady, ‘Big Town Playboys’, mixing piano with some harp, and a poignant ‘Give Me One More Day’, which saw John with a short guitar solo. A funky keyboard lead, told us John was ‘Not At Home’, but he was back for an excellent harp solo on ‘One Life To Live’. ‘Early In The Morning’, brought together, John on guitar and Rocky Athas working his Strat with a passion. The one thing that has always stayed with me from the early 60’s is John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, ‘Broken Wing’, it still remains in my mind as a superb, understated, song, I was only too pleased to hear it performed live this evening. In ‘California’, John throws in everything, a long harp solo, some piano, and guitar, all to the rumbling distant thunder of Greg Rzab’s base, all pinned together by Jay Davenport on drums. Rocky and the boys have given us a great performance all evening, enabling John, to sometimes go perhaps a little astray, breathing space occasionally to check his song book, but also to let us all into the world of John Mayall, legendary blues man, who introduced us to some of the UK greatest guitarists, Eric, Peter, and Mick Taylor. Tribute was given to the late Jack Bruce, who, along with Eric was ‘stolen’ from the band by the irascible Ginger Baker, the rest as they say, is history. The Mayall bio reads like a who’s who of blues, it would take too much space to list all the ‘significant players’ that have passed through his Bluesbreakers. I may not have seen him at his best, but I am very pleased to be able to say, I have seen him perform live on stage.
Supporting John, was the high rolling, multi award winning, Glasgow based, blues band King King. Fronted by Alan Nimmo, this band brings a rawness and energy to stage that reflects their standing. A kilted Nimmo, joked about his upbringing, next door to a cake shop, between delivering some powerful songs, accompanied by Lindsay Coulson on bass, Wayne Procter on drums and Bob Fridzema on keys. Taken from their 2013 award winning album (yes more accolades) Take My Hand, ‘More Than I Can Take’, blasted out. Their new album, Standing In The Shadows, sourced the superb, slow burning, soulful, ‘Jealousy’. The band may not have a huge library of albums behind them, but there’s not a dull or mediocre song in the catalogue to choose from, so the whole set flows through picking off songs from the 2 releases. All helped along by a wry grin and that bit of a sparkle that easily ignites Alan, launching him into a wee homily. The band finish to a song scribed by Eric Clapton and Robert Cray, ‘Old Love’, beautifully performed, with Alan taking his guitar down to just audible ‘power off’ notes, before bringing it back up to a glorious ending. With support like this, you could argue, who needs a headline, but it was, after all, a legend.
Words and photos Graham Munn
Virgil And The Accelerators @ Robin 12/11
Army Of 3 Tour
Emanating from the Bromsgrove area, Virgil And The Accelerators have certainly hit the road running, A young Virgil, followed by an even younger Gabriel, infiltrating their Dad’s band, The Accelerators, bringing in another local boy, Jack Timmis on bass. The transformation was complete, and Virgil And The Accelerators was born for the high road to rock. Already highly acclaimed and feted, for me, they have shifted their position from an electric guitar driven bluesy rock band to hard core rock, with US and European tours, part of everyday life.
This gig was The Robin, late into the album tour, but the energy levels are still there for all to see and hear, Virgil squeezes every conceivable note out of his guitar, which screams and cries in his hands, Gabriel, appropriately, has a Muppet Animal, strapped to his kick drum, I seem to recall likening his style to that characterture, when they took Upton main stage by storm a few years back. He has not changed, well maybe he has grown a little in stature, but his explosive style is distinctive, even though barely visible from floor level. I have yet to be in a position to capture him in camera, from a reasonable viewpoint, and that’s a shame. Jack keeps that bass throb going, holding the timing, controlling the flow from the two brothers. It all opened with ‘Take Me Higher’, Gabriel, working high on the cymbals, as Virgil winds up, followed by a Led Zep like ‘Blow To The Head’. A true blue riff finds its way into ’88’, a small respite for my tormented ears, (must carry plugs!) distinctive notes pick there way through Virgil’s lyrics, for nice touch of Chicago. Virgil’s long curly locks, held in restraint by the band in his hair, fall forward as he closes down over the guitar, remaining there, lost in his world of chords and frets, getting plain ‘Low Down And Dirty’. Time has stopped, as every emotion is extracted from those strings, before breaking out into ‘Free’, like waves lapping on the beach. The final word was a bit of Hendrix, which seems fitting enough, as the evening closed on ‘Are You Experienced’, yes they absolutely are, rock on.
Words And Photos Graham Munn
The Poor Boys Of Worcester are a six-piece band featuring the unlikely line-up of four Ukekele’s, double bass, banjo (actually a banjolele apparently), harmonica and vocals (shared between the various members of the group). The band were making their live debut and as you might imagine with any group making their first bow, their were mistakes, forgotten vocals and at times indecision, to the point of being ramshackle….…but…..didn’t they entertain. Despite the stop-starts, the band’s set was a varied collection of covers done in a unique style that was both infectious and a barrel of fun.
The band ran through a number of songs from the songbooks of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash (including a wonderfully ragged Folsom Prison Blues), a rustic Way Back When by Ronnie Lane, a handful of genuine rock classics in the shape of Fade Way by The Stones, Hotel Yorba by The White Stripes and a brilliant Bad Moon Rising (it really shouldn’t work on uke’s but the some of the finger picking by Tom Doc Watson was sublime) and a folk blues classic by Leadbelly all re-imagined with strummed and plucked uke’s and banjo often complimented by parping blues harmonica and thumping bass.
Talking of bass. I really should mention here ,the rather tasty Shane MacGowan cover drawled and delivered delightfully by double bassist Mick ‘The Hat’ Morris as another set highlight, again proving the band’s diversity and ability to straddle genres.
Like I alluded to at the beginning of this write-up, The Poor Boys aren’t the tightest of bands out there (and it’s early days), but they know how to deliver a fun-filled set, both the packed out back room of the Lamb & Flag and the band themselves were left with a collective Cheshire cat like smile welded on their faces and a song in their hearts. I can forgive and overlook any missed lyrics or musical indiscretions when a band know how to entertain and those “boys” sure know how to entertain.
If your idea of live music is faithful, tight renditions of your favourite songs, I suggest you look elsewhere, but if you want some fun The Poor Boys are the band for you.
Rhythm & Booze Rating 8
- Stuart Woolfenden-Are You Vulnerable Or Just Insane?
- Dr Feelgood Live @ The Assembly Rooms, Leamington, 14/11/14
- Notorious Brothers Live @ The Prince of Wales, Ledbury, 9/11/14
- John Mayall/King King Live @ The Birmingham Symphony Hall 5/11/14
- Virgil And The Accelerators Live @ Robin 2, Bilston 12/11/14
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