WALTER TROUT BAND – gig review

The Jazz Café, Camden, Tuesday 16th October 2012

Armed with a chunky new blues platter, Walter Trout has completely overhauled his live show since last year’s shows. Incredibly, ‘Blues for the Modern Daze’ is Mr Trout’s 21st solo album. It’s also one of the best received for many a long year and it was a joy to hear the contents so richly and fluidly plundered here.

But it nearly went badly wrong. Mitch Laddie, one-time Trout band member and now filling the support slot here, had enjoyed a delicious full-fat sound mix against which to ply his very considerable trade. So cue fear and dread coursing through the veins when Trout’s Strat did a passable impression of Rob Brydon’s man-in-a-box during the intro salvo. ‘Help Me’ and ‘Life In The Jungle’ similarly struggled for balance. Sammy Avila’s gorgeous Hammond organ simply swamped the mix.

Blood pressure levels were restored when the sound guy sorted out his channels in time for ‘The Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous’. The first track from the new album saw Walter in blistering form. ‘Brother’s Keeper’ and ‘Saw My Mama Cryin’ followed in a similar mood: power blues laced with soaring and screaming solos that could rip your heart out.

Walter broke up the feel during the set with guest vocalist Andrew Elt belting out a couple of bruising rockers straight out of Bobby Plant’s instruction manual. The band were sharp, and save for an uninspiring drum solo, this was a lean, assured and powerful performance. His connection with the audience was sure-footed too, including a great rap about touring in “Kansas or Iowa where they think the Flintstones is a documentary”; and a passionate rant aimed at a bloke who thought he would accompany Walter on harmonica during the intro to ‘Blues for the Modern Daze’. “I hate that. Don’t do that. Not unless you want to get up here with me!”

Superb stuff. A show full of energy and electricity delivered by an artist at the very peak of his powers.

Mitch Laddie is at the other end of the ladder. A prematurely balding 21-year-old from the north-east who challenges preconceptions about what a blues guitarist should look and sound like. “Ok let’s get it on”, he mutters into the mike before cajoling the one of the dirtiest, thickest low-tuned guitar growls I’ve heard outside a doom metal gig. The highlights were a stunning Stevie Ray Vaughan cover and a lengthy, subtle, pure blues workout from the ‘Burning Bridges’ album called ‘Mr Johnson Revisited’. The band were so tight you couldn’t get a rizla between them and the occasional crossover funk references hint at the promising directions that Laddie can take the sound.

Dave Atkinson

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