Welcome to the Stables, one of the UK’s leading LIVE music venues, founded by Jazz singer Cleo Laine and her late husband John Dankworth in 1970, it has hosted internationally renowned performers of all genres and still continues to provide entertainment to this day.
The support band tonight was American singer and guitarist Rebecca Brindle Scala and her UK band, bassist Colin Ness and the wonderfully named Alan Sticky Wicket on drums. Beki is a regular performer on the Woodstock region live music scene and has collaborated with names such as Steve Gibbons, John Sebastian and Russ Ballard to name just a few. She plays music celebrating her heroes and pays homage to the likes of Muddy Waters, Sleepy John Estes and the iconic mandolin/guitarist James (Yank) Rachel who she supported on stage for many years.
Starting the night off with a funky number and on her latest album Blue for You, James Fullin’s Whisky followed by Little Walters’ Crazy Bout You, then a song from her 2016 album All Kinds of Beki, which she dedicated to her friend Jim from Woodstock, New Shoelaces which had a ZZ Top La Grange intro where she played some really impressive guitar. Apologising for her jet lag, she continued with the Muddy Waters cover Satisfied which had most of the audience hand clapping so she needn’t have worried.
Her cover of John Mayall’s Possessive Emotions was the highlight of her forty-minute set for me, no wonder John himself told her that he loved it: great vocals and Sticky did a pretty good drum solo on this too. Finishing her set with two from the All Kinds of album Diving Duck Blues and Young Women’s Blues, Beki and the band played a good mix of blues and country blues and prepared the audience for the main attraction tonight.
John Verity came to the stage and with a beaming smile said hello to the audience; the Stables being fairly local to John and one of his favourite venues to play at. He immediately set the stage alight with Help me segueing into Nothing but The Blues, which immediately showed off his guitar virtuosity and his powerful vocal, both songs from his newly released Ep Where’s the Love. Continuing with the Johnny “Guitar” Watson number Looking Back which was to be in the key of G (which apparently bassist the brilliant Roger Innes still hasn’t been able to find), asking Sticky in the audience was futile because being a drummer of course he had no idea; shrugging his shoulders to much laughter, the laughs continued as Mr Verity joked “we like to start our set off slow”. then coming to front of stage for some more outstanding axe work on the ep title track Where’s the Love, and some sweet vocals from John.
Asking the crowd if they liked Etta James to big cheers, he played a great cover of her song Blues is my Business from his latest album Blue for You. Everything that John plays, he is either smiling or just disappearing into the music but always with passion and emotion, and when you are at a John Verity concert you can’t escape from his ability to interact with the crowd and getting them to sing along with him as he stops singing and waits to hear the audiences voices, so it’s either very quiet or incredibly loud. Thankfully on the first of these singalongs it was fairly loud with the cover of JJ Cale’s Cocaine.
The Buddy Guy Cover Never Gonna Change even had some of them up on their feet not surprisingly with another brilliant solo from John, his treatment of Screaming’ Jay Hawkins Put A Spell on You was, if you will excuse the pun, pure magic where the power and range of his voice shone through, and a wonderful deep bass line accompanying him made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. It was time to introduce the members of the band: Roger on bass and the young and talented drummer Liam James Gray who according to the older band members is nearly 13 now, it makes them feel younger anyway.
A change of guitar, during which one crowd member shouts “it matches your shirt” and John makes a joke about his fish shirt; (Verity fans will know what I mean), he introduces Hope for the Best as how he plays his music and his guitars he has no technique he just lets his heart tell the guitar what to do. All I can say is John: man, that heart is listening intently.
Time for another bit of audience singing, the drum and bass line begin and then the clapping as the Argent classic Hold Your Head Up echoes through the Stables: the crowd joining in on the chorus shouting Woman or Whoa as some still do; Liam beating the skins for all he’s worth, Roger Innes keeping that iconic bass line going and John’s fingers running up the neck of his guitar at breakneck speed on the solo. After the loudest applause of the night so far a quieter sombre moment as John dedicates Blues in Heaven,a song he wrote for his friend Malley who sadly passed at Christmas, but John said he did get to hear it. An old song next, and one like hold your head that he loves to keep playing, Say Why: with another brilliant display of guitar skill Roger looks on in awe with a big smile.
The final audience participation number, and as I always say (as does Mr Verity) despite what they think a heavily made up rock band did not write, penned by the wonderful Rod Argent and Chris White God Gave Rock and Roll to You had the loudest crowd singing of the night.
The incredible feedback and whammy bar work on Star Spangled Banner Hendrix style was epic and had Beki Brindle on her feet; this segueing into a version of Purple Haze that Jimi himself would have been proud of.
Closing the set with Old Time Rock and Roll where Roger displayed some skilful bass slapping on his solo and Liam also showed off his tub-thumping prowess. The crowd wouldn’t let them go without one last song and what a finale Joe Walsh’s Rocky Mountain Way played in John’s inimitable style.
Review by Dave Martin for Jace Media