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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: John Mayall, Colston Hall – Blues godfather still going strong at 80

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★★★★✩

WHEN John Mayall and his band played Bristol back in 2011 I wondered what magical elixir could keep him going with such energy and enthusiasm for the blues. Now, at 80 years young and seeming fitter than ever, it must be a blues player's longevity gene in his DNA that makes him appear ageless. The unquestioned godfather of British blues, he has been mentor to many great guitarists over the years. His current line-up – simply a guitar, bass and drums to accompany the maestro – have been touring together for the last six years. Their empathy and rapport are evident from the outset.

The evening began with the Glasgow band King King performing a set of blues rock as chunky as their lead singer Alan Nimmo in his trademark kilt. They are an essentially upbeat outfit, justifiable winners in the British Blues Awards, with some memorable original songs that set the scene perfectly for the man himself.

A high proportion of 12-bar blues material, in a set Mayall dedicated to bassist Jack Bruce who died recently, varied from the early Sucker for Love and Do I Please You to the heavier blues rock of The Bear, Movin' Out and Movin' On and Speak of the Devil. Here, his voice, if anything, has regained its earlier power and he now plays more on guitar; his semi-acoustic playing matching the electric lead guitar of Rocky Athas, another brilliant musician to sign up with the old master. Mayall still plays a mean blues harmonica (Have You Heard 'Bout My Baby) and the combination of splendidly fluent bass playing from Greg Rzab with the precise drum work from Jay Davenport created as tight a Chicago blues sound as you could wish for.

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