John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers @ The Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
It’s this sentence opener which so often makes my selective hearing switch into overdrive and most of the time its for good reason. To avoid yet another barrage of how great life was growing up in the heady rock and roll era of the 60’s is almost impossible. “I was there for the free Rolling Stones gig in Hyde Park…”, “I remember seeing the beatles in a pub in Romford…” or my personal favourite “I once saw Hawkwind (the predecessor of Motorhead) and watched a half naked lady coloured in blue paint sit stage front and wobble about alot for an hour and a half” Tasteful? No, True? Yes, and after seeing footage of this wacked out 70’s Lemmy stoner shenanigans on some “When rock ruled the earth” documentary on BBC 32, I have to admit I’m slightly jealous.
My dad is a huge early blues fan of artists such as Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and John Lee Hooker. Yet one ommision from this list was touring the UK and even I can admit he is a legend of british blues. So when the opportunity arised to go see some of your musical roots playing live, I couldn’t turn it down. Especially the fact the ticket was paid for me and I “Forgot my wallet”, oops! So I went along to this evening of blues, balding heads and tapping toes.
John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers, were the original blues artists of the UK. Now I have awesome respect for this dude as he mentored some great guitarists, Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, Mick Taylor of the Stones but most notably “El Slowhand” himself Eric Clapton, plus he still has a full head of hair at 74 (unlike most of the crowd may I add). Support on the tour came from “Chickenshack” who I was told had one hit in the 15th century and have been riding it bareback ever since. Chickenshack was quite an apt name for this technically limited and just, well… boring band, as this is where they should really be playing in. At least most of the crowd would then be awake!
With higher hopes and another free beer down we took to the auditorium for the headline act. The Bluesbreakers themselves kicked off the set with a cover of the Classic Blues Brothers anthem “Sweet Home Chicago”. Already you just knew these guys knew how to sling their weapons. On came John to a nice mature round of applause and soon had his harmonica firmly glued to his lips. When I think of harmonica i get the image of a random hill billy sitting on his front porch on that rocking chair droning himself off to sleep. Not now however, this guy could really play harmonica, almost like the early bluesmen of the american deep south. Rythmn and Blues was there for all and the arena was slightly shaking from the involuntary foot stomping of the entire crowd. Highlight of the evening came in a tribute to one of the great blues bands as guitarist Buddy Wittingham rolled off riff after riff of classic Led Zep tracks, each to appreciative grumbles from the wrinklies. From Moby Dick to whole Lotta Love finishing with Heartbreaker including the sublime solo at breakneck speed, Inspired!
For an elder statesman John Mayall can does a charastmatic job as frontman of one of the forerunners of the blues scene even though those days have long since past. But this was a thoroghly enjoyable evening of roots blues, liveley and technically superb! Did I mention it was free too 🙂