When a living legend visits your town not only should you go, you should be grateful and more appropriately, be amazed. Joe has fitted into this category for many years and every time I have seen him I have been stunned at the sheer talent this man has and how easy he makes it look.
The man produces album after album of brilliant blues and with the majority of tonight’s show being from the last two releases in Redemption and Blues of Desperation I was already anticipating something special and as I was handed the set list prior to the show you could not wipe the smile of my face.
As the lights go down and we get the Muddy waters intro to “Tiger in your Tank” and the man is shown by torchlight to his spot centre stage the crowd are already cheering and very nearly off their seats.
He quickly moves onto “King Bee Shakedown” and the scene is set for tonight…sheer class from every single person on that stage. The show is polished, it is professional and it cannot be faulted. There is a sort of quiet awe rushing through the venue. It is packed right to the roof and every person here is awaiting the usual high standards you are guaranteed with Joe.
Even though everyone is here to see Joe you cannot get away from the band and vocalists he has surrounded himself with. The horn section of Lee Thornburg and Paulie Cerra is an inspired choice and adds that old school jazz to the blues. Anton Fig on drums is just exquisite, hall of famer Reese Wynans is not only the most talented keyboard player I have ever seen, he is probably the happiest man you could encounter behind the ivories. Bassist Michael Rhodes has probably the biggest roll on stage as he duals with Joe on numerous occasions but backing singers and most travelled people for 100 miles Jade MacRae and Mahalia Barnes added an extra depth(and some lovely choreographed moves).
With it being the first night of the tour you could expect some hiccups but these are seasoned pros and it all goes without a hitch. Each member is totally focused on Joe from the start and finishing gun on the tracks. The whole show is fine tuned and oiled like the most precise engine you could imagine.
I am not normally a fan of seated shows, I struggle to sit at piece and I am always desperate to get to my feet but after a well filled and long bank holiday weekend I am more than happy to sit back and be entertained.
My first wow moment was on “Self Inflicted Wounds”, a real favourite of mine from Redemption and he just strung this beautiful song out with some truly jaw dropping playing. This song was just beautiful.
You know with any of Joe’s shows you are going to get covers and as well as the opener we get treated to “Well, Well”, “Nobody Loves Me but my Mother”, “Little Girl” and the ne everyone loves, “Sloe Gin”. A song that the man has made his own and usually my favourite of the night but that honour was left until later with the first song of the encore in “Woke Up Dreaming”.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyNZM2Lj1PQ&w=560&h=315]
Joe strolled onto the stage on his own with an acoustic guitar and he proceeded to blow myself and everyone here tonight away. There were sounds I have never heard come out of an acoustic guitar and one man with the most incredible talent filling a hall with what seemed like heavenly music.
Since I have mentioned religion I do have to state I am sure if Joe was in a dual with the devil he could take a battered acoustic guitar with two strings and send that beast straight back to hell.
Nobody could fault any part of the show put on here tonight, it was a class of excellence far too few will ever reach but if I had to pick anything it would be the interaction with his fans. I know there are plenty of people out there who love bands to just get on with the show but I am a bit old school, I want to hear him talk, I want to hear his stories, I want to connect with him.
When Joe did stop and chat for the one time during the show it was funny and it showed a much more personal side to him. It got the crowd going, it got the idiots shouting but it showed an honest and much more down to earth side. I do not know if I am that far removed from the level of genius that is Joe that I just want to connect on a more basic level but when he spoke to us and told the story of not believing the level of drunkeness he witnessed on a bank holiday in Glasgow I felt much more at home, much more in sync.
With such a small gripe against what was a fantastic show I have a real cheek even mentioning it but with a well over two hour show it keeps the punters happy and involved in the show. On anther note I could happily watch this man for eight hours and I know I would be entertained from start to finish…There is nobody out there who is even close to this man.
Images and words Ritchie Birnie –