By Ian Diddams
After eight months of being other engaged on the first Sunday of each month, with run throughs of self-authored radio plays, Rugby weekends to Edinburgh, and rehearsals for Pirates of Penzance and Macbeth, I finally had a spare slot to come and see Jon Amor in residency at The Southgate Inn, Devizes.
Given this was Jon’s EIGHTH appearance this year at the venue it’s a somewhat daunting task to review him following in the footsteps of Messrs Worrow and Fawthrop .. but here I am in an attempt to not regurgitate the same old cliches and fawning sycophancy.
Errr… ummm… hmmm… ahhh…
So much for that attempt then! So leaving that aside …
Jon – the lanky piece of piss from the Hoax according to Jeff Beck – was as ever at his ease in his manor. Joining him were his constant companions (at least at the Southgate!) the incomparable Jerry Soffe on bass and Tom Gilkes on drums – more of them later. And after a couple of shoulder loosening openers of superb class this month’s guest … Muddy Manninen of Wishbone Ash, Patsy Gamble and Black Pearl fame. And even with the superb introduction to the gig, the class rose yet again as Muddy strummed his way through the first joint number.
And the evening just got better and better and better. Swapping between themselves on rhythm and lead, Jon and Muddy led us through raucous numbers to classic blues over and over again. And no sooner had it seemed they’d just begun … it was half time and a chance to replenish glasses and take a breather from the heady atmosphere outside in the delightful beer garden of the Southgate.
Soon it was however time for more of the same, and what a second half. How anybody can say they don’t like blues always defeats me and the guys took us all to even more stratospheric delights. Aside from the phenomenal talents of our two strummers, the backing boys shone though. Jerry every bit the standard bassist with t shirt, shorts and trainers had his own moment to shine with sublime solos and interjections, the coolest member of the quartet (well, he IS a basis 😊 ). And Tom… well… BLOODY HELL! I recall the first ever drum solo I saw aged about twelve maybe, at the Chatham Central Halls of the Dutch Swing College Band – the rest of the band left the stage – no doubt to toke and drink up – and the drummer did his thing for several minutes. I was mesmerised. I’ve loved a good drum solo since and I wasn’t disappointed as Tom got his chance to demonstrate his sublime skillset for many minutes until he finally begged for release from his band mates as he tired, to a standing ovation.
A chum I grew up with a million years ago is no mean drummer himself, and runs a recording studio in Southern California now; I sent him a video of Tom’s work and he replied “He’s a very good drummer. Those little grace notes he’s playing on the hi hat in that last clip is classy.” So there you have it – not only a brilliant drummer but also a Devizine review from San Diego!
All good things eventually come to an and we said farewell to Jon and Muddy and – of course! Tom and Jerry! The connection between all four of them was palpable and the joy palpable. Jon has always come across as a genial easy-going guy of course, but I commented to him afterwards that he looked really happy on set. Broad grins and smiles all round. Muddy was a total delight to see and hear play, true class again. We are so fortunate to be able to draw upon Jon’s circle of friends in the business in this manner, and it’s no small kudos to Dave and Debs at the Southgate for the residency slot and the concept of “And Friends”.
As a final world then, it’s only fair to quote my chum from SoCal once again …
“It’s a good day when you stumble upon players of this calibre down the pub!”
Isn’t it just?