DVD review: WILKO JOHNSON – Live At Koko

Wilko Johnson - Live At Koko

Cadiz Music [Release date 18.12.13]

The biggest weight of expectation on a night of high emotion probably lay in the lap of the multi-camera crew, rather than the band themselves. For on a night that happily didn’t turn out to be permanent farewell for the former Dr. Feelgood mainstay, Wilko Johnson and his ripping trio looked as relaxed as ever have done, and it was left to the crew to try capture the spark and spirit of the night.

Wilko Johnson ‘Live At Koko’ is as you might expect rough at the edges, but the production is superb, the presentation excellent and the main body of the bonus cuts are essential.

In the 9 months interim since the concert, he even returned to play the same venue again for a further 2 night stint in October last year. But this was to be his last show and ‘Live At Koko’ is a superbly shot account of a magical evening on which Wilko struts his stuff, in front of the perfect rhythm section of Norman Watt Roy and Dylan Howe.

The performance is also a celebration of Wilko’s stop-start career, taking in his ‘Going Back Home’ co-write with his hero Mick Green and his Dr. Feelgood hits.

The DVD line notes significantly make reference to Wilko’s fallow recording period in the mid 80’s when he hardly cut anything, and yet his post Feelgood career provides this set with some of his career classics. There’s the droning vocal of the eclectic ‘Dr. Dupree’, the spartan ‘When I’m Gone’ – which is an exercise in dynamics – and the extended, lascivious rap of ‘Don’t Let Your Daddy Know’, on which Wilko’s edgy, trembling tone cuts a swathe through Norman’s rumbling bass, before the bass player himself cuts loose with his own solo.

Wilko ostensibly finishes his customary short set with a laid back version of  ‘Back In The Night’, before the band suddenly segues into to powerhouse ‘She Does It Right’ as Wilko rolls back the years with his manic stage movements and the production crew earn their corn by capturing the magical moment.

Alison Moyet makes a surprising guest appearances on two songs, the ragged Bo Diddley inspired ‘I Don’t Mind’  and the pulsating ‘All Through the City’ in which Wilko plays some great rhythm, before rounding things off with a croaky, extended, ‘Johnny B Good’, on which the camera work is again superb. The ‘Twenty Yards Behind’ finale, finds him in overdrive enjoying a collective flashback with his fans to an era long gone.

The extras are also worth checking out, even if you have already seen Julian Temple’s ‘Oil City Confidential’, with Wilko quoting Milton and reflecting on his background as a sort of Renaissance man. There’s references to the origins of both his lyrics and his stage moves (the later courtesy of the MC5 at the Wembley rock & roll show). There’s also some priceless French footage of the early Dr.Feelgood, an honest appraisal of his own stage persona and career highlights aplenty – including meting Ian Dury, and Norman Watt Roy – his first trip to Japan and a poignant reflection on his late wife Irene.

In short, this DVD covers the waterfront, or should that specifically be Canvey Island, the place that moulded him.

‘Live At Koko’ comes with a few other add-ons, but the excellently filmed concert and interview with George Hencken provides the substance of an essential purchase.     *****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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