The Katmen have a serious 1950s obsession. And the three piece are extremely good at what they do. This will come as no surprise when you realise that amongst their members are Slim Jim Phantom, ex of the Stray Cats, and Darrel Higham who plays with Imelda May.
Phantom has been doing this sort of stuff for years and years and he looks thrilled to be here, well he might too, as his band are tremendous fun. They only get half an hour, but you suspect that live is the arena in which they truly shine. Last track “When The Drinks Dry Up” perhaps exemplifies their sound best of all, as it rocks and rolls in extremely exciting way.
Halfway through the opening song “Rock Party” George Thorogood is dancing his way through his guitar solo. He is doing so wearing a bandana and dark glasses. In one fluid movement he removes the specs and chucks them over his shoulder – while still playing the solo and wearing the bandana, which is pretty cool whichever way round you look at it. We are a long way from Joe Bonamassa here, ladies and gentlemen.
If you still need confirmation that Thorogood is a little bit tougher than your average blues singer then it comes after “Help Me.” He tells the crowd: “I have good news, Birmingham. The Destroyers Parole Officers have given them 24 hours off. As they are behaving, I shall be doing everything I can to get arrested this evening, someone should go to jail for rock n roll and it might as well be me.”
Ok, so the police aren’t needed, but as nights on the town go this one is a belter. Thorogood and The Destroyers have been doing this – as the big screen behind them keeps telling us – for 40 years, and it shows. They are slick, they are superb and they know exactly how to work a crowd.
For an hour and 40 minutes, essentially, you are watching tremendous boogie rock. Something akin to Status Quo with a healthy dollop of saxophone. Most of the classics are played “I Drink Alone” and John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon One Scotch and One Beer,” sound fantastic, while “Get A Haircut” is big, dumb fun.
Then it happens. Thorogood sneers and says: “I can play all my songs good, but you didn’t come here to hear me play good. You came to hear me play bad.” And with that, he launches into that staple of rock compilation albums from RTM was young (and probably still!) “Bad To The Bone”.
He follows this with Hank Williams, Elmore James and Willie Dixon numbers, before going off for an encore – sort of. What he actually does is sit on a stool and pretend he’s too tired to continue, before launching into a stunning version of “Madison Blues.”With that, he really is done. The National Anthem goes up and Thorogood bows his goodbyes.
You don’t get to be at the top for 40 years without being talented or be a decent showman. Happily Thorogood is both – and will probably be bad to the bone for a lot longer yet.