Hot Games

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Wilko Johnson

The Fleece, Bristol 6th May

Growing up in the seventies, I liked T-Rex and I liked Slade and, of course, I fancied Suzi Quattro and Linda Ronstadt, but the first group I was really into were Dr Feelgood in 1976. I still remember coming home clutching the seminal Stupidity album the week of it's release with it's classic cover picture of Lee Brilleaux and Wilko. That album remains my #1 favourite live album, and yes, even better than the Johnny Cash live prison albums.

I finally got to see Dr Feelgood live in Autumn 1978 at Brighton Top Rank. Of course by this time Wilko had left, but nevertheless they were still storming live. I saw Wilko live for the first time shortly afterwards at the Marquee. I’ve seen him since, of course, and also with Ian Dury (on the DIY tour). To my mind, Wilko is a national treasure that needs preserving and it's great that he's still strutting his stuff over 30 years later.

So to the Fleece on a Friday night. It is warm and packed, almost definitely sold-out. Just the sort of atmosphere you want for a slice of R&B. First band up were Billy Whizz: dire. Second up were 3-piece The Soulvents whose musical influences were given away by the singer's Fred Perry shirt and Mod-ish haircut. The guy was one excellent guitarist and his repertoire was impressive, unfortunately he had no stage presence whatsoever. Anyway Steve Marriott & Weller influences aplenty, he covered one Weller track and finished with a crowd pleasing All through the City. Definitely worth catching again.

And so to Mr Johnson, who as per usual was joined by Blockhead Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe on drums. Wilko looks more and more like Alf Garnett every year and Norman is like the butler in a Hammer Horror film. Pretty they ain’t, but my God can they still brew up some R&B! Wilko is as energetic as the very first time I saw him and this is music as it should be – R&B in a small sweaty bar.

As usual the Dr Feelgood songs go down best – I remember Back in the Night, She Does It Right, Don’t Let Your Daddy Know, Sneakin’ Suspicion, Keep it Out of Sight, The More I Give, Paradise and Twenty Yards Behind. Wilko was joined by Jerry Tremaine (I think that was his name) on vocals and harp for a storming Woolly Bully and Roxette. Dr Dupree was also in the mix somewhere. A single encore – a rollicking Bye Bye Johnny – it is always good to see Mr B Goode, the patron saint of R&B, make an appearance!

I’m already looking forward to the next time Wilko and co. are in town!

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