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The Fabulous Thunderbirds
The Mean Fiddler,
Wednesday 11th May

Much anticipated here at Blues in London towers, the return of the T-birds has long been overdue. Arriving early to an almost empty Mean Fiddler (overpriced beer and rubbish facilities, but an ideal size for seeing this sort of thing) I wasn't sure how it might go - there are, after all, some fairly dodgy albums in the back catalogue and a night of excessive 'rockery' was not an appealing prospect.

I needn't have worried... From the opening bars of a dirty 'Wait On Time' it became clear that this band has been able to capture the magic of the early stuff whilst injecting some new energy into what could have been a Greatest-Hits-Going-Through-The-Motions show. By now the place had filled up and the (mostly chaps-of-a-certain-age) audience showed their appreciation vocally.

And off we went. Two guitar players in their 20s - Kirk Fletcher with his Albert and Freddie King stylings and Nick Curran doing a very credible Jimmie Vaughan job, legendary (veteran?) Gene Tayler pumping the piano, Ex Little Charlie & The Nightcats' Ronnie James on Bass, Jimi Bott hammering the drums and then there's Kim...

Probably a consequence of the 'Boy Named Sue' principle, he comes on looking like a super hard Bruce Willis and rocking the charisma (although, disappointingly, no turban!) before breaking into a smile and launching into the opening lines. And there's that voice, surely amongst the greatest, and certainly one of the most distinctive in the whole pantheon of the blues.

From then on we're treated to a pretty evenly matched selection of classics (highlights including 'She's Tuff', 'Running Shoes', 'You Aint Nothing But Fine' and 'Don't Touch Me Baby' from Kim's non Thunderbirds 'Tigerman' album) and songs from the new album 'Painted On', due for release in June. The new stuff manages that rockin' shuffle-lickin' rock and roll whose lineage goes right back to Chuck Berry hisself and which us Brits seem to find so very elusive. Maybe you just have to be American to do it... maybe we should stop embarrassing ourselves and try and concentrate on the cool stuff we can do...

Nick Curran managed the step out of Jimmie Vaughan's shoes for a rocking version of Little Richard's 'Keep a Knockin' and from then on gradually stamped more and more of his own authority on the proceedings, greatly impressing my gig companion Vince Velour (who knows about this sort of thing) with his wit, taste and style. Having admired his crap Squire guitar last night, Vince looked it up this morning a found you can buy one for £117. Proof positive that it 'aint the axe, it's the man chopping...

Kirk Fletcher on the other side of the stage also greatly impressed with his taste and style... For a guy in his early twenties to be playing that kind of old school guitar is rare indeed and the crowd certainly appreciated it - he probably scored top honours for solo applause.

That Kim has a knack for picking guitar players seems self evident...

On the subject of style, both Vince and myself resolved, as a consequence of this gig, that we were going for the see-through shirt/vest and tattoo combination as soon as we possibly could. Clearly there is not enough of that sort of thing in London blues.

On the way to the gig I was, perhaps provocatively, telling people I was going to see the World's Second Best Harmonica Player... Kim's playing easily justifies all the superlatives that have been heaped upon it over the years and tonight, especially the (20 minute?) solo towards the end proved he is a total modern master. Subtle, powerful, inventive, distinctive, with a command of a range of styles few can equal, he really is one of the all time greats. (First place honours still go to Rod Piazza, but only just, and anyway, it's not a competition. I'm maybe being a tad controversial here... Discuss.)

Over two hours of unrelenting rockin' rhythm & blues later Vince and I are almost prepared to state that this was the best gig we've ever been to. Certainly it ranks up there, and I'd even be tempted to suggest this is the Best Band in The World. Obviously such distinctions are pretty meaningless, but it gives you an idea of just how good they were.

My faith in the music has been restored. I have seen the future - the future wears see through shirts and ROCKS!

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