Of course it’s trivial compared to those who have lost loved ones or their own livelihoods, but one of the biggest effects of the Coronavirus pandemic has been cutting live music dead in its tracks. Having been to over 80 gigs last year (and reviewed over 50 on this site) I’ve felt that void in my life more than most.
I fear that will continue for some time to come, but luckily a few enterprising promoters have made the best of circumstances as lockdown restrictions were lifted somewhat. My desperation for some live action meant I eagerly snapped up a couple of opportunities for live music, that might not have otherwise been priority in my usual jam-packed gig calendar.
For over 20 years now the Eel Pie Club in Twickenham has been keeping alive the spirit of the nearby Island that was such a hotbed of activity in the sixties, as demonstrated on the recent BBC4 documentary. As a local, I’ve been a periodic attender for much of that time and they put on a series of socially distanced shows at their usual location at the Cabbage Patch pub, albeit in the beer garden.
This one featured Gary Fletcher, best known as bass player for The Blues Band, the Paul Jones-led supergroup, but also a respected singer and songwriter in his own right. Days before, it was wisely moved to an indoor bar when truly foul weather was correctly predicted. There were a few changes to the normal gig format- a reduced capacity on reserved tables arranged wedding style, and even the performers wearing masks as they made their way to the stage.
Gary was accompanied – in a matching baseball cap- by Nick Ritchie, current guitarist with Mud. The two worked very well together- although billed as an unplugged gig, Nick’s electric guitar complemented Gary’s acoustic very effectively, notably adding some very Mark Knopfler-like textures to opener ‘I’ll Never Leave You’.
Gary, who was a genial storyteller, included a generous selection from his recent album release ‘River Keeps Flowing’. Most of it was not in the main specifically blues based, with a personal slant to the lyrics along with some darker material such as ‘No Shadow on the Wall’. Again, the gentle, almost conversational tone of his voice was complemented by some strong harmony singing from Nick.
They did an enjoyable take on ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’, the old blues standard, er, adapted by Led Zeppelin, while Gary switched from acoustic guitar to banjo for ‘Jacob Burkle’, a story song of a 19th century German emigrant to Memphis. The three songs before the interval were rockier as Gary switched to electric, including two Blues Band numbers in ‘So Lonely’ and ‘I am the Doctor’, and one of the set highlights in the swampy blues feel of ‘Don’t You Come Creeping’.
The second half saw a reversion to those more personal songs including ‘I Can’t be Asking’ and ‘May You Now Find Peace’ either side of the bluesier ‘Still the Same’. ‘Hearsay’ went in a folky direction, Gary’s banjo and Nick’s guitar picking dovetailing nicely. They closed with the old Blues Band favourite ‘Greenstuff’ – its hypnotic riff reminding me of ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’ before returning for a solitary encore in gentler style in ‘That’s My Way’.
After an enforced exile of 199 days, this was a thoroughly listenable evening and a much more enjoyable than expected return to gigging.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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Featured Albums w/c 25 January 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 ART OF ILLUSION X Marks The Spot (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 THE DEAD DAISIES Holy Ground (SPV)
14:00-16:00 TED & MAJELLA Divine Timing (indie)
Power Plays w/c 25 January 2021 (Mon-Fri)
THE WEDDING PRESENT We Should Be Together (Scopitones)
MIDNITE CITY Crawlin’ In The Dirt (Roulette Media)
JOSEPH WILLIAMS Never Saw You Coming (Mascot)
ALEX JAMES BRIERLEY Go With The Flow (indie)
THE UNDERCLASS The One (indie)
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