The bets were on. Would Mick Jones appear at this first UK date of a massive 40th anniversary world tour? The omens weren’t good as four songs in the band played one of the massive “hits” (and somewhat ridiculous without their leader) “Waiting For A Girl Like You’. But, thankfully, he appeared like a wise buddah for the song ‘That Was Yesterday’. Sadly for Mick these tours must now be now be something of an endurance test as he’s not been in the best of health.
I’d bumped into photographer Steve Goudie at the outset and Steve thought that without Mick this is just a tribute band. That may be a little harsh as the bulk of the band members have been together for a decade or more. The issue might be that they’ve only made one new studio album together in that time – 2009′s ‘Can’t Slow Down’ – which effectively marked their millennium comeback. But since then we have had endless permutations of the classic songbook – remixes, acoustic and, most recently, orchestral.
To cement a revival band, they not only have to have key original members (usually guitarist and/or vocalist, with respect to Thom Gimbel who has been with them off and on since the 1990s) but also have a few genuinely new albums under their belt with the current line-up.
Kelly Hansen does an excellent job on vocals but more than that he is a wonderful frontman and – like the rest of the band – animated and commanding. He’s also engaging, whether it’s asking whether there are any wild women in the house prior to ‘Dirty White Boys’ or his “feel the lurve” rap prior to the anthemic ‘I Want To Know What Love Is.”
But these were just highlights amongst highlights. Whilst it may be the same old safe setlist it is delivered with such energy and panache – and the songs are so memorable – we can forgive them. And when Mick Jones walks out on stage – as previously in 2014 – the icing is firmly plastered on the already rather scrumptious cake.
But wait a minute. Where’s Thom Gimbel? As the mega hit jukebox progressed, there was a fear that one classic song would go without saxophone. We are ok, because Gimbel is there on stage – he just looks like a refugee from a Lynyrd Skynyrd gig. His sax solo on ‘Urgent’ was definitely one of the highlights tonight and he also showed himself to be Mr.Versatile switching easily from guitar to keyboards, flute to sax. What a guy.
Band members Michael Bluestein (keys) and Chris Frazier (drums) – both allowed their time in the spotlight were also impressive, whilst Jeff Pilson is typically animated and engaged from start to finish. Bruce Watson looking cool throughout in shades is an excellent foil on guitar and does some of the heavy lifting when Mick Jones is on stage. I say some, because when Mick gets up his head of steam he can bash it out like the best of them, not least on the mammoth ‘Juke Box Hero’.
The gig rallied with the early tune ‘Long Long Way From Home’ followed by ‘I Want To Know..’ complete with a local school choir (who to be honest couldn’t be heard, but a nice touch nevertheless) and a final thrust of ‘Hot Blooded’. 2014′s gig was magnificent, 2018 may have even edged it.
Special guests tonight John Parr and Joanne Shaw Taylor were hampered by very poor lighting. Parr may seem a natural AOR fit and his short acoustic set was highlighted by a rousing version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ and of course ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ with Parr telling us the true inspiration for the song. It made me think he’d be good on a small club tour with stories to tell.
I was looking forward to Joanne Shaw Taylor but aside from the lighting issue I wondered whether the large stage really suited her and her band. Last time I’d seen her in a smaller venue supporting Robin Trower and she really impressed. Tonight she wasn’t helped perhaps by the choice of setlist in a pitifully economical timeframe with a longer, slower piece (‘Tried, Tested & True’) breaking the pace and impact. Fortunately Joanne has her own tour dates this autumn when I am sure she will flourish.
1. Double Vision 2. Head Games 3. Cold As Ice 4.Waiting For A Girl Like You 5. That Was Yesterday 6. Dirty White Boy 7. Say You Will 8. Feels Like the First Time 9. Urgent 10. Keyboard and Drum interlude 11. Juke Box Hero Encore: 12. Long Long Way From Home 13. I Want To Know What Love Is 14. Hot Blooded
Review and photos by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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