…and our current inability to match social calendars continues, as just me and Roj attend the Duchess.
John Mayall – a name that resonates through the historical corridors of British Blues. Back in the 60’s, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers launched (or helped to launch) the careers of many a top artist. Eric Clapton, Andy Fraser (Free), Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones), John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green (all Fleetwood Mac) all served terms under Mayall’s “incredibly great school for musicians”. After moving to America in the 70’s, he played with many notable US performers and backed Blues greats as they toured the UK. The Bluesbreakers, under various guises, have been around for most of his career, finally disbanding in 2008 after extensive touring took a physical toll on Mayall. However, he then decided to put together a new band (Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, Jay Davenport on drums and Tom Canning on Keyboards), with a more limited touring schedule.
Of course, being the music guru that I am, I knew barely any of that until I started researching for this entry. I did know Mayall’s name, though, and when I saw it on the what’s on listing, it was an easy decision which gig to go to this week.
The first thing to mention is the man himself. Now 75 years old, he looks and sounds a hell of a lot younger. No sitting through the set, no being helped on stage by “minders”. Mayall is active throughout the set and his voice as he introduces the songs is clear on strong. For most of the nearly two hours he alternated between keyboard and various harmonicas, at times playing both at the same time. For one song he played a twelve string guitar. For another, the first of the evening (no support band tonight) he played completely solo.
This is a band that obviously enjoy playing together. Big smiles and acknowledgements of each others performances abounded as each member took their time in the spotlight for a series of dazzling solos including the longest and probably best bass solo I have ever seen, with barely a hint of funk.
I can’t remember many of the track names but the set spanned Mayall’s career from 1965 up to a track from a new album due out later this year. Nor can I remember how many tracks were played but I don’t think we got far into double figures. Each track was more of an instrumental showcase than a lyrical masterpiece and some were in the region of ten or more minutes long. Most were easily identifiable, keyboard-led Blues (the second track of the evening was a lot more jazzy than the rest) but there was, for me, a hint of a prog-rock/Blues fusion, especially in Dream About The Blues – the standout track for me.
I’m beginning to appreciate just how many styles of Blues music there is and this was the first time I’ve really encountered the lighter side of the genre. Blues that brings a smile to the face, rather than some of the more dour and depressing stuff. There was even dancing!!
So far this year, the Duchess has hosted some top-notch older acts and this was yet another superb show.
Afterwards we headed of to the Roman Bath to catch the second half of the always excellent Mojos. As usual, we were treated to a selection of classic covers including (but, as usual, not limited to…) Robbie Williams (Let Me Entertain You), Dire Straits (Sultans of Swing – a superb version), Guns ‘n’ Roses (Sweet Child of Mine), Bon Jovi (Livin’ On A Prayer), and Kings of Leon. Good music, well played. I even found myself singing and dancing along. I must have checked some of my inhibitions at the door. Maybe it’s the Daisy effect… 🙂