added: 29 Apr 2012
// gig date: 27 Apr 2012
reviewer: Andy Snipper
If you go to see Joe Brown in concert there is no point in wishing for cutting-edge or radical: you are going to get a very classy and extremely capable septuagenarian who plays the music that he wants to an audience that loves him and enjoys what he does.
This isn’t intended to denigrate him, quite the contrary, because he was around at the birth of British Rock ‘n’ Roll and he is still making valid music today and doing it with a smile and real charm.
Taking the stage he introduced the band: his old friend Phil Capaldi on drums, Mike Nichols on double and electric bass, Ben Lee on guitars and harmonies and son Pete Brown on guitars and vocals and they played what he called their ‘Front Room’ set with all the band seated and Capaldi playing what looked like a set of boxes but what was actually a set of Cajons.
He started with a tribute to Mississippi John Hurt – ‘Ballad og John Hurt’ with Joe on a spangly Resonator style guitar and they got into their stride with a lovely ‘Cloverleaf Rag’.The first of the instrument changes saw him picking up a Ukulele for Chas ‘n’ Dave’s ‘There’s No Pleasing You’ and we were getting the full article as he described them as the only band who can make Joe Brown sound ‘high-class’. The humour was a feature of the show, as much as the music and he told countless gags about himself, the band and his relationship with Pete who is also Joe Brown’s producer.
The ‘Uke’ was a feature of the show and we got versions of ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ as well as ‘I’m Not In Love’ featuring massed Ukuleles!
The second half was a more standard affair with them all standing in the normal array and Phil Capadi lost behind his drumkit. They started with Joe’s first ever hit ‘Darktown Strutters Ball’ but the number that really hit home was an amazing version of U2’s ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Waiting For’ with Joe on violin and the whol thing done as a Bluegrass number – and brilliantly – and followed by a rockabilly version of ‘Ace Of Spades’ on ukes.
They played all his hits and kept the crowd alternately applauding and laughing but the humour was a natural part of the show, never forced, and his natural bonhomie seemed to shine through – this is a man who enjoys his music and is not just another cabaret act.
No encore, he played ‘See You In My Dream’s without the band having left the stage, and that was it. Exactly two hours onstage and everybody satisfied.
Still rocking’? Yes but in a stately way.
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