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Support Blues in London
The closing night of this worthwhile festival paraded the ancient, charisma-laden T Model Ford to a full-house on Saturday night. The 86 year old, who only started playing at the age of 50, seems to be a big draw as The Spitz is at bursting point once again, due largely to the “myth” rather than a direct result of his music I would suggest.
The night is opened solidly by one man band Lightning Malcolm, equipped with bass drum, hi-hat and guitar, he runs through a tight set very much in the vein of the headliner (which becomes more apparent when he later accompanies T Model on the drums).
Malcolm donned in white Reebok trainers, party shirt and huge medallion- esque necklace, doesn’t cut the figure of a traditional Deep South Blues man, (he looks more like Biff from the Back to the Future Films) but his set is believable enough, with some nice guitar work and some songs that seem familiar to a surprising number of the audience.
As with most support acts though, you get the feeling that people are getting a little bit impatient in waiting for the main attraction and luckily Lightning Malcolm closes his set just in time to be rewarded with a well deserved, heart felt round of applause.
Enter Mr T-Model Ford stage right. Accompanied by Malcolm and a well worn walking stick he shakes hands and flashes a beaming smile at some of the female attendees before being placed up on his chair and plugged in to the large Fender Twin behind him.
As the show gets underway it is clear that Malcolm is really going to earn his money on drums tonight. T-Models erratic changes and varying structures mean that Malcolm has to have both eyes glued to T-Models guitar in order to follow his playing. After a slightly shaky start, the two of them get a great sound going, with T-Model delivering an impressive guitar style considering his age and an authentic, rambling vocal.
I personally had some trouble getting into the show because it all felt a bit of a circus. It was exactly the same feeling I had watching Honeyboy Edwards a year or so ago. You worry on behalf of these old bluesmen in case they can’t remember a line or the structure for a song. This approach was seemingly also being adopted by the organiser’s. Notices warning people not to buy drinks for T-Model were posted on the walls and a female member of staff hovered annoyingly at the edge of the stage in case T-Model needed his mic stand adjusting!!
T-Model seemed relaxed enough, grinning and winking at members of the audience, even acknowledging those watching from the gallery. And although we get a number of songs repeated and a couple of confused covers T-Model played a lengthy set of consistent stomping blues in a charismatic, unique style.
For many people this kind of blues can get a little monotonous and I doubt half the audience would have tolerated exactly the same set had the band been white and under the age of forty, but they’re not!! And that’s kind of the point. The audience have paid for the experience rather than the music so that when the conversation arises at their next dinner party they can tell all their friends that they saw an authentic delta blues man playing it like no-one else can. Call us cynical, but I’m afraid it’s true.
P.S. Thank you to everyone who gave feedback on our Otis Taylor / Gary Moore review. We trust you will find this piece just as amateurish and equally honest! - G.P. and Lewis