|Photo by Anita Schlank|
Before Paul McCartney, before Mick Jagger, there was a guy named John Mayall who was the leader of the revolutionary blues band, The Bluesbreakers. Still going strong at the tender young age of 83, Mayall is out on the road fronting a tight combo and rocking every club he can find.
Earlier this year he dropped a new album on 40 Below Records, Talk About That, and now he’s out supporting it while reaching out to new and existing fans. Catching Mayall in an intimate setting like the West End’s Tin Pan is always a treat. For one thing, you are right on top of the stage, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. For another, you don’t have to worry about food and drink, the establishment has plenty of both and lots of great help to ferry them out to you.
On a stormy night, one in which hail had fallen earlier, Richmond packed the house to greet the blues legend. Prior to the show, Mayall spent a couple of hours hanging out in the lobby talking to everyone on the way in and autographing his new album, or just about anything the audience member wanted. I was lucky enough to catch Mayall when no one else was coming in and he gladly signed the new CD and six others I brought in from my personal collection.
|Photo by Anita Schlank|
When the show started, he casually strolled onto the stage and beckoned to his rhythm section to join him. Greg Rzab and Jay Davenport, who played bass and drums respectively, stepped up to the stage and the band ripped into a jazzy version of Dancing Shoes.
That set the tone for the rest of the evening, Mayall and the guys playing off each other and each taking some decent breaks. For that first song, Mayall’s vocals were a little low, but were quickly adjusted. Mayall had two keyboards set up with his harps on top. His guitar stood alone at the back of the stage just waiting to be called in to duty.
From there, he launched into a great version of the title track from the latest album, Talk About That. For this number, he played both keys and harp and then picked up his guitar for the first time and they played Moving Out And Moving On. Mayall alternated playing guitar and keys in a very impressive display.
I would have been happy to listen to Mayall tell stories of his time in the blues world, but he wasn’t interested in traveling down memory lane. He was much more interested in playing great music and letting that speak for itself. He played an outstanding version of Parchman Farm. Mayall mentioned Mose Allison’s great cover of the song, but Mayall’s would compare well with any version. It earned him a standing ovation from about half of the audience.
After that, he had a little fun with Why Did You Go Last Night and Louis Jordan’s Early In The Morning. Rzab took an extended bass break and even slipped in a little Deep Purple riff which the audience ate up and applauded.
Another new tune from Talk About That followed, Going Away Baby and I’m A Sucker For Love. He quipped, “There are probably a few of you out there who feel the same way.
Mayall took a personal turn on the next song, Give Me One More Day. He talked about how he stopped consuming so much alcohol 25 years ago and he credited that with his being able to still be around today. I loved the lyric “I was a liquor store outlaw,” and probably more of the audience could identify with the sentiments in the song. Whatever you’re doing Mr. Mayall, keep it up…
One of the more enthusiastic audience member shouted out a question to Mayall about where he got his guitar. Mayall had already said he couldn’t hear what they were shouting, so Rzab stepped in and quipped that the guitar was for sale for $97,000! That started a bidding war, which fortunately was quickly squelched.
Next up was a smoldering slow blues number, Drifting Blues. Mayall delivered a gorgeous extended version of the Charles Brown classic that again the audience responded with a standing ovation. The ever gracious Mayall thanked the audience and reintroduced Rzab and Davenport again (he actually introduced them several times during the show, making sure they got their time in the spotlight) before introducing their “Closing Concerto.”
He called it that because all the guys would get a chance to take some extended leads and they never knew from night to night where it might lead. They played a song from Mayall’s first album, Chicago Line, and pretty much tore the house down. They received a well-deserved prolonged standing ovation peppered with cheers, whistles, hoots and hollers.
Returning to the stage, they told the audience they were going to play their most requested song which brought a chorus of song titles from the still standing throng. Mayall responded that they had “a number of great requests but they only knew one.” He then extended his introduction to Room To Move and the place erupted.
Even after hanging out prior to the show and rocking hard for 90-plus minutes, Mayall still took the time to greet everyone as they left, autographing more CDs and shaking hands.
Catching a legend up close and personal in a great setting is something that every blues fan dreams of. I’ve heard so many stories of some of the greats stepping into a small club and last night it was Richmond’s turn for one of the greats to drop by and play a fantastic set.
One last thing, hey Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, why is this man not enshrined in your hall? Considering the contributions he’s made to blues and rock, he deserves his space.