You have to love a show in an intimate venue. I’ve seen some remarkable performances in large, cavern like places with thousands of people piled on top of each other; but there is something much more magical when the space is smaller, the crowds are closer, and there is actual interaction between the artist and the audience.
John Mayall, the legendary performer who helped launch the resurgence of blues in Great Britain and who helped create the early careers of some of the greatest performers of the 20th Century, rolled into The Tin Pan with a tight group and played his way through two hours of kick ass rock and blues.
Some of the artists that Mayall has worked with include Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, Hughie Flint, Jon Hiseman, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser, Johnny Almond, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya and Buddy Whittington.
The capacity audience started lining up a couple of hours prior to the show and were actually greeted at the door by Mayall himself chatting with fans and signing autographs – especially on his latest album from Forty Below Records, FIND A WAY TO CARE. He was gracious enough to allow photographs and answer some questions.
After the queue settled down a little bit, Mayall answered some questions about his fusion laced blues back in the early days. “Well, you know,” he said, “blues had a lot of influences in it. As long as you played from the heart.”
Many stars who have achieved a fraction of what Mayall has accomplished would be fine lounging in an air-conditioned room sipping their favorite beverage while waiting for the show to start. Not Mayall – he was easily accessible right up until it was time to go on stage.
When that electric moment came, the audience roared their approval.
He kicked things off with a swinging version of Dancing Shoes and allowed his guitarist Rocky Athas to stretch out and take the first of many blistering guitar runs. Mayall kept things under control with a wave of his hand or a nod of his head to indicate breaks and he was not stingy with them throughout the night.
From there he moved into a selection from his Blues From Laurel Canyon album, Somebody’s Acting Like A Child. Mayall played keys most of the night, and here he added his signature harp playing to the mix.
Before each song, Mayall would introduce the number and sometimes he would add the album name, except when he wasn’t actually sure. At one point he announced a song as “being from an earlier album, don’t ask which one. There were so many!”
All in all Mayall and Company (the previously mentioned Rocky Athas on guitar; Greg Rzab on bass; and Jay Davenport on drums) ripped through about a dozen songs during their two hour set. Mayall, who is 82 never sat down – instead he jumped between two keyboards, played harp, played a little guitar, and sang every note.
Some of the highlights of the evening included the jazz inspired Not At Home which featured a great solo by the rhythm section, All My Life, The Sum of Something, Heartache (off of his very first album), Sonny Landreth’s Congo Square, and a fantastic version of Chicago Line with an extended jam. Just before kicking off Chicago Line there was a quick consultation and Mayall quipped, “Sorry, the key changes every night.”
For an encore, the band played a blistering version of Otis Rush’s All Your Love.
At the tender young age of 82, so many people are tempted to look at John Mayall’s career in the rear view mirror. It’s easy to see what he’s done, and no one would fault him for resting on his laurels. But within a few bars of the first song, it’s evident that Mayall’s gaze is fixed firmly in front of him. This man loves to play!
(Photos appropriated from John Mayall's website. If you are the copyright owner and wish for them to be removed, please contact us and we will comply.)