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Live Review

The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Mean Fiddler, Charing Cross Road, 20th July 2007
Main image by A. Liza. Review and other pics by Julien Joyce

Who’s the world’s best living blues harmonica player? That’s a question that kicks off an inconclusive debate among the fans. But in the meantime Kim Wilson must rank high in everyone’s list, just from his “how the **** does he DO that” style. At one point during his gig at London’s Mean Fiddler on Friday, Wilson was playing a bass AND a melody line simultaneously – and the only way to do that is to blow through both sides of the mouth at once. And as any aspiring harp player will tell you – that’s depressingly difficult.
As ever, Wilson is the solid centre of the Fabulous Thunderbirds – a band that’s been playing in once form or another (although always with him at its heart) since the mid 1970s. His current (and very tight) line-up includes the very impressive Kirk "Eli" Fletcher, whose lead guitar solos on” “My Babe” and a couple of other T-Bird standards inspired a forest of hands-in-the-air from an appreciative audience. There’s solid support too from Nick Curran, whose rockabilly-style rhythm guitar style is credited with helping to bring back the T-Bird magic which some say was lost after long-time band member Jimmy Vaughan left in 1990. Curran’s backing vocals also perfectly complemented Wilson’s keening voice talents.
The Thunderbirds played a pounding set, with the usual double dose of Kim Wilson energy. “She's Tuff ” inspired a singalong amongst those old enough to remember when it was first released. And the way Wilson does that little laugh thing at the top of the song is still funny after all these years. Certainly the band was laughing along too, and so were we. We heard some older stuff  -- My Babe of course -- plus a judicious selection of newer material, especially a stomping version of Postman from the band’s 2005 album Painted On.
But it was the harmonica playing that most of us were there for and Wilson didn’t disappoint. There was a moment towards the end of the evening when the band walked off one by one, leaving him to blow a jaw-dropping solo that went on for over 10 minutes (I counted) accompanied by the laconic Jay Moeller on drums. After a while he left too, leaving Wilson alone in a pool of light and surrounded by a ring of sweat and spit drops on the stage. And still he played on.
One a crowd-hopping encore of Crawl later and we were still ready to rock, but the T-Birds have been playing long enough to know to leave us wanting more. Fabulous, Fabulous Thunderbirds.

>> More of A. Liza's fantastic shots of the 'Birds here >>

>> Our review of their 2005 London gig here >>