Billy Walton Band at The 100 Club

4 stars (out of 5)

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So what do you want from your live music? Do you:

a)want to hear the band play all their recorded material exactly the way it sounds on the album or;

b) want them to hit the stage with the aim of blowing you away with technique, dynamics, showmanship and sheer enthusiasm. If you’re in the b) set then the Billy Walton Band are the band for you.

The 100 Club is a venue with a fascinating past. If you’re interested in the history of rock music, it’s worth a visit just to look at the photos on every wall, where you can see everything from early jazz to The Damned and beyond. The Billy Walton Band set takes inspiration from many of the bands featured here and many, many more.

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that Billy Walton plays guitar; he started to play professionally at the age of 15 and he’s now the leader of a power trio in the mould of the Jimi Hendrix Experience with William Paris on bass and backing vocals and new drummer John Hummel laying the foundations for Billy’s guitar masterclass.

Billy’s playing developed on the New Jersey scene based around the Stone Pony club whose previous alumni include Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Bon Jovi and he’s highly respected by the members of that scene. That respect was demonstrated in the autumn of last year when Southside Johnny asked Billy to play guitar for him on part of the British tour, replacing Bobby Bandiera, who was on tour with Bon Jovi.

The live set is a mix of Billy’s recorded work (including the beautiful “Soul Song” from the “Neon City” album), ambitious covers (Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and, unsurprisingly, Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch”) and crowd pleasers like the finale “Cannonball”. It’s obvious from the start that Billy (and the band) live for that moment when they walk on stage and start to play. Technically, Billy Walton is a great player and demonstrates a wide range of styles and techniques through the set but there are thousands of players who can do that. What makes this band such a great proposition live is that they are completely fired up and they want the audience to have a good time while they do what they do.

Billy (aided and abetted by William Paris) creates a great rapport with a Sunday night audience which might just scrape in to treble figures but you get the feeling that he would perform the same way with an audience of one. It’s obvious from this set that you have to see the Billy Walton Band live to really appreciate them. The 2 recorded works, “The Billy Walton Band” and “Neon City” are certainly worth a listen, but in front of a live audience is where they really work. The band are back in the UK in May 2010 (details on the website:www.billywaltonband.com) so, if you like your blues, rock (and a bit of soul) served with a bit of fun and showmanship go and watch these guys; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.