Wednesday, February 17, 2010

John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers - Toby Walker -- Birchmere - Feb 16 2010

Toby Walker - The show gets rolling with a solo guitarist fingerpicking his way through a classic sounding blues song with great style and flair. He is playing fingerstyle or maybe it's clawhammer-strum as Allan Taylor called his similar style. Whatever you call it, Walker clearly is a master player and a good showman. His set has some standards like "Spoonful" with some originals which were also good and featured plenty of pyrotechnic playing and a decent voice. There are plenty of people to have open up a blues show, so it helps to make an excellent choice like this--a guy who can play, who has a sense of humor and a flair for pulling the audience in and getting everyone revved up for some up-tempo blues. Toby Walker is a great choice for that.

John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers - 77 year old John Mayall quickly bounds up on the stage. I looked around to make sure that was really him as no 77 year old should be that spry. He does one song solo before bringing out his band. The band hits the stage and is fairly lean featuring drums, bass, keyboards, and electric guitar. Mayall handles all singing, harmonica, keyboards and plays guitar on one song. Mayall had lots of classics and songs from his lengthy back catalogue. Every time I tried to think of the song I used to hear on the radio in the seventies, I kept hearing Steve Miller Band's "Living in the USA". Thankfully, he closed with the song "Room to Move", so I now can complete my memory with a sound. Although this version was a bit extended and varied from the original. The night mostly featured keyboard solos even more than guitar solos, but on this final number, the bass player came forward and delighted the crowd with a pretty amazing solo. The drummer briefly did his thing and then the band left to a rousing ovation. Everyone was talented and I really do not believe I just saw a 77 year old performer bopping around the stage, never taking a seat or a break and carrying as much of a load as anyone out there. Heck, he even had enough hair to tie up a pony tail. The only signs of age were a heavily reverbed voice and one senior moment where the other keyboardist had to help him with a preset on his keyboard. But even with that, I think if you had no knowledge of Mayall, you would probably guess the guy was no more than 60 based on what you saw. How long can this guy go? We shall see as he shows no sign of slowing down with 62 dates through June and four more in August. I need a rest just thinking about this.

Quote of the Night:  Mayall recounting a comment about his harmonica playing-- "Sonny Boy Williamson thought I was shit."

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