The back room of a Hertfordshire pub, which is also one of the South-East’s longest running music venues, was the unlikely setting for a one off date with guitarist Bernie Marsden, shaking off his jetlag from a trip to the States for the PRS guitars convention.
Earlier spring dates saw him with a full band but on this occasion the affable former Whitesnake six stringer was accompanied only by a couple of acoustic guitars and long time collaborator and FM guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick, who was a perfect wingman and enlivened the opening blues standard ‘Lining Track’ with slide guitar and harmonica playing.
It was inevitable that the set would be a mixture of classics from the original and ‘proper’ incarnation of Whitesnake, and some of the blues classics that so inspire Bernie. Of the former, ‘Till The Day I Die’ was reminding me to go back and play ‘Come An’ Get it’ and though ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ saw the mainly male and older crowd singing along lustily, equal pleasure came from hearing some of the lesser played numbers such as ‘Trouble’ and ‘The Time Is Right For Love’.
The blues covers ranged from Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Key To The Highway’ and some Robert Johnson to Fleetwood Mac’s blues days, invariably accompanied by some anecdotes about his favourite players. The interpretation of the Mac’s Danny Kirwan’s ‘Dragonfly’ was perhaps my highlight of the night with some delicate guitar picking and harmony vocals from Bernie and Jim.
One of the biggest cheers came when he reached for his red Gibson 12 string to play ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’, but the evening was just as much about his underrated voice, and his singing was warm and crystal clear and probably actually better suited to the acoustic format.
He always radiates a jovial bonhomie and his self deprecating humour and stories had people in stitches, especially when thanking those who had supported a pledge campaign for his autobiography before claiming he now had to go back and write it. Indeed he even took the ‘evening with’ format to logical conclusions by boldly asking the crowd if they had any questions for him.
Joking that his wife had asked if he could write another five of them, an all too short evening ended with a slowed down ‘Here I Go Again’ (interestingly mixing ‘hobo’ and ‘drifter’ in the lyrics) and a cover of ‘From Me To You’.
Being critical, the level of chat did mean that a relatively low dozen songs were played, but the way the queues swiftly formed within moments of him finishing for a post show meet and greet speaks volumes of the esteem in which he is held, both as musician and a genuinely witty raconteur with stories to tell.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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