If you will permit a slightly personal digression, that we are doing to this show at all is a long story, but one that revolves around the fact our partner in gig going crime for 20 odd years is the world’s biggest Rory Gallagher fan, so RTM is forsaking one of our favourite bands to see a tribute act……
Actually that is little disingenuous. This is not your average tribute act. This celebration of the work of Rory Gallagher (the man who Jimi Hendrix considered the world’s greatest guitarist) contains two of the men who were by his side in the 70s – bass man Gerry McAvoy and drummer Ted McKenna – together with Dutch bluesman Marcel Scherpenzneel. Viewed in that respect this Band of Friends is no more of a tribute than the current line up of Thin Lizzy, say.
Before the Rory stuff there are Sugar Mama. Impossibly young they might be, but this local band have some very fine blues chops. Single “Bullfight Blues” is a fine song and their set is an entertaining one, even if it is slightly marred by singer/guitarist Sam Anderson having tuning problems with his guitar.
This is a minor problem though – and one they will iron out with more shows such as this. Sugar Mama are a band with potential.
So it is then, that about 9.20 Gerry McAvoy and his mates stroll out onto the Bilston stage. Early portents are not good. He sidles up to the mic, goes to say hello and the thing collapses. What follows are 30 seconds of pure slapstick as he tries and fails to make said stand behave, but if that sets us laughing, what follows makes sure the smiles don’t leave for the next two hours.
The evening kicks off with “Last of The Independents” and from there becomes possibly the finest celebration of blues music that could be imagined. “Lets Go To Work” follows quickly as does “Calling Card” with its funky bass. “Bad Penny” is a revelation and “Follow Me” has lost none of its appeal despite being over 30 years old and really, if you can’t enjoy Shadow Play” you aren’t trying.
Although the band as a whole is flawless, it really is Scherpenzneel who deserves most plaudits. He is quite stunning in the “Rory” role, and his guitar duel with special guest Gwyn Ashton is jaw-dropping.
It is a real shame when “Bullfrog Blues” brings the curtain down, as this had been one of the great life-affirming gigs of 2012. Not a gig, as such, it was exactly as promised, a band of friends enjoying themselves - and it was unexpectedly brilliant.