Picture the scene, its 38c – that’s 100 degrees fahrenheit, though it’s mercifully cooler in the shade – and septuagenarian blues man Mighty Mo Rogers is holding court in front of a big crowd in Square Dom Bedos.
In the early evening shadow of Eglise Ste Croix – a church carved out of blonde Bordeaux stone – thousand of young people are partying with a dude who could be their granddad, but who given half the chance would still be boogieing as the sun comes up.
Mighty Mo offers a glorious contemporary take on old school blues. He’s been called ‘Nue Blues’ but that kind of label fails to convey his communicative abilities which make an intrinsic connection with his appreciative festival crowd.
He’s a micro blues man who addresses macro subjects, but in doing so he fully embraces modern technology. He funks things up on a portable synth and throws the occasional extravagant shape from behind his keyboards, to encouraging a call and response connection with the crowd, who sing, clap along, yell and throw their beer in the air.
Clearly the LA based, Indiana native is no ordinary jobbing blues man, as he has much to impart.
With his, snow white beard, bandana and shades, he could easily be a blues pirate, but by adding a straw hat he transforms himself into a seasoned blues guy whose lived in baritone and stabbed keyboards drive the band through a joyous celebration of all that’s good about blues related music.
He views the world through a blues prism, but colours his own personal experiences with universal truths, in a manner that evokes Taj Mahal.
Tonight’s show has a celebratory feel as he draws the crowd into his mini philosophical messages and his overall analytical take on the blues He radiates understated charisma and optimism by sending out the barely concealed message that while his mission is to spin tales like all good bluesman do, he’s also going to have a party while doing so.
He mixes Chicago Blues with southern soul, old time r&b and funk in a non- stop show that flows like the deepest river.
Apparently he got his nick name from his days as a wrestler and you suspect that might give him that little bit extra tonight, because after a slight delay in checking out his keyboards, he booms out: “hello Bordeaux” and we’re into the perfect blues revue.
He opens with the simple musical message that he’s ‘A Soldier of the Blues’ and follows that with a rather perfunctory cover of ‘Born Under A Bad Sign, which takes its time to hit a funky groove, but eventually kick starts a blues party par excellence.
He adds occasional gospel tinged moments when his natural ability to preach comes to the fore. It’s an ability he uses wisely as he encourages a surprisingly young crowd to think about things through songs shot through with irony, wonderment, observational lyrics, and frequently a helpful booming hook that the crowd can hang on to.
There’s a humorous song about the moon being blue, which is his poignant view of the human condition. He also rattles out some great one liners, ranging from; ‘can’t get away, from the blues in your DNA’ to an intro to a reggae song with the priceless nugget that: ‘reggae ain’t nothing but the blues from an island’.
Funnier still is the opening couplet of the stretched out 12 bar blues, ‘I Believe In Evolution, as Mo bellows: ‘I believe in evolution, she made a monkey out of me’.
He’s a wordsmith who can disguise a serious message in humorous cloth. And while he doesn’t quite have the soulful chops of say Bobby Bland or Little Milton. he does have real presence as evidenced by the reflective ‘Sweet Soul Music’.
The song’s simple but enduring message becomes almost anthemic as it sweeps across the festival crowd: “Sweet soul music, down home rhythm & blues, that’s the kind of music we can really use”
Tonight Mighty Mo Rogers reminds us that while music is the message and blues is the messenger, there ain’t nothing like a blues party to get your message across.
Special thanks to the magnificent efforts of Francis Vidal (pictured above left) who has programmed over 60 bands in 2 months worth of rock, blues, r&b, soul, funk and all shades of great music across Across Bordeaux, as part of the 7th Relache Festival.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos 1 & 5 by Anne Pioton, 2/3/4 by J.P Vinel, 6 by Gilbert Bereau
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