Sunday 10th April 2005
'It Came From Memphis Festival'
Blues - Bobby Rush, Little
Milton, Kenny Brown, T-Model Ford
Hats off to The Barbican for his fantastic month
long festival celebrating the musical influence of Memphis. The
programme is based on the book of the same name by by Robert Gordon
and themed around the key recording studios - Sun, Stax, Hi, Muscle
Shoals and Ardent.
Tonight's show was billed as 'Delta Blues' and the programme represented
a fairly broad definition of what that might mean.
T-Model Ford opened the show... Looking frail as
he was walked on, once seated and having introduced his drummer
Spam (outstanding) he launched into a trance-like version of Mystery
Train and entreated us all to 'shake what you got' with a fair bit
There followed a selection Fords trademark trancy groove based riffing
on the 13-and-a-half-bar-blues and rounded off with less than precise
but affecting all the same versions of Hoochie Coochie Man and Smokestack
Kennny Brown opened with Rollin' and Tumblin' -
jangly and uptempo, to my ears he was suffering from the sound quality
of the Barbican being not really suitable for his style of guitar
boogie. I suspect if you saw him in a bar he'd sound great but in
the sleek concert hall setting it all seemed a bit lost. Full marks
to his bass (Terence Bishop) and drums (John F Bonds) backup however.
Echoes of the White Stripes and The Black Keys in the punky attitude,
and low slung stance!
Any allowance for the setting suddenly seemed redundant as Little
Milton came on and just OWNED the stage. Taking control
with an awe inspiring display of old school, real deal charisma
and dedication to his craft, it's immediately apparent why he's
Classic soul story telling balladry on 'Just One Moment' had us
all hooked. Here's a man who can sing for real, with a voice comparable
to any of the other soul greats, and he hadn't even touched his
guitar yet. Eventually though the guitar comes out and off we go
with a brilliant display of subtle, emotionally charged soloing
blended perfectly with each song.
You can see technically competent guitar players almost everywhere
you go, but Milton here reminded us that there's far more to it
than that. Avoiding showy pyrotechnics he plays to tell the story
and pass the feeling in a way that all to few guitar players seems
to be able to manage these days.
We don't get 'Grits 'Aint Groceries' but he does round things off
with 'Hey Hey, The Blues is Alright' - getting us all on our feet
and shouting along with yet another masterful display of soul showmanship.
Genuinely a class act.
For Bobby Rush it was tough act to follow, but
he appeared un phased and let rip with a massively energetic performance,
complete with comedy prop big knickers and booty girl dancer.
Billed as 'singer/harmonica player/tireless entertainer' we got
the lot. Miltons band, who'd stayed on to do backup duties, occasionally
looked panic stricken as Rush's not so clear stage directions lurched
them all off down some other road but everything seemed to fall
into place eventually due to the sheer charisma of the man.
Singing, rapping with the audience, playing great harmonica and
even a few numbers sat at the guitar, it was another old school
performance reminding us that 'Entertainment' need not be a dirty
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