Up Around The Blues Club
By Andy Fawthrop
Well, it’d been a long old time but finally – finally! – we were back after 18 months to Long Street Blues Club, hosted by The Con Club. The original artists for this gig had been the USA-based Billy Walton Band but, once one or two other dates on their European tour had been cancelled due to Covid restrictions, found that the tour as a whole had become unviable. Hopefully they’ll be re-scheduled for 2022.
Which left Ian Hopkins needing to scrabble round fairly quickly in order to fill this date for tickets already sold – and what a great job he did at such short notice. He found two very competent acts to step in, and the gig could go ahead, even if not quite as originally planned.
Support for the evening came from an old mate of mine, Kevin Brown. He of the oil-can guitar, the blues slide guitar and, when playing on the local pub and festival circuit, Shackdusters fame. This was his first appearance at the club, playing solo. His laid-back, humorous, self-deprecating style quickly won over a large audience, who listened in rapt attention. Kevin writes his own material, based on his life experiences, so that the man and the music blend almost seamlessly. His JJ Cale tribute number was particularly impressive. A very winning performance, which elicited fulsome and well-deserved applause – so let’s hope he’s invited back in the future.
The main act, Creedence Clearwater Revival arrived with a “show” – a pre-programmed set, introduced by, and intercut with documentary voice recordings by members of the original band. Early on the band explained – if explanation it was – that their rhythm guitarist “couldn’t make it”, so they were doing the show as a trio. An odd start, but then they got on with ticking the hits off the list – Up Around The Bend, Rocking All Over The World, Heard It Thru’ The Grapevine, Midnight Special, Because You’re Mine, As Long As I Can See The Light, Bad Moon Rising, Born On The Bayou, Proud Mary, Have You Ever Seen The Rain. The show – delivered as two fifty-minute sets – was performed with confidence and aplomb. By the end we had singalongs and quite a few folks up dancing at the front.
And yet. And yet…..and yet it left me rather un-moved. I grew up with the music of CCR and John Fogerty, so I’d like to think I’m a bit of a fan of their material. So I was surprised to find the show rather unexciting. The band were professional and competent and captured, to some extent, the “feel” of CCR’s bayou-based sound. Yet somehow, something of the original CCR’s drive and energy was missing. It felt a bit “CCR-by-numbers” if you get what I mean? I thought perhaps I was being a bit super-critical, so I consulted a few people whose musical opinions I respect (as well as a few whose musical opinions I don’t respect) and there seemed to be a clear consensus – it was OK: the band were good, but not great. My own acid test on these things is – would I pay money to go and see them again? Sadly, my answer would be in the negative. It felt a bit one-dimensional. There wasn’t a whole lot of audience engagement. They’d come to play a show, and they played it. Job done. No criticism whatsoever of the great job done by Ian, but not every band can float your boat, can it?
Future Long Street Blues Club gigs:
- Saturday 2nd October – Jimmy Carpenter
- Saturday 30th October – Climax Blues Band (at Devizes Town Hall)
- Saturday 20th November – Focus (at Devizes Corn Exchange)
- Saturday 27th November – Antonio Forcione Quartet
- Saturday 18th December – Kossoff: The Band Plays On
- Friday 14th January 2022 – Chicago Blues Allstars
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