OK, I know I’ve already done my favourite five gigs of the year, but sometimes you see or hear something very special at a gig and it puts all of those cold nights on public transport or long drives to and from gigs into perspective; something which stops you in your tracks and makes you smile or cry or just amazes you.  I’ve seen a few of those this year and I thought it would be rude not to share them.  Once again, in no particular order, here they are.

Billy walton Magic MomentsBilly Walton is always likely to do something a bit special and he didn’t disappoint at The Buzz Club in Barnet in May.  During a guitar solo, he dropped seamlessly into the guitar riff from the Led Zeppelin classic “Kashmir” for a few bars before nailing the intro to one of my teenage favourites  “25 or 6 to 4”, recorded by Chicago before they discovered ballads.  In true New Jersey tradition, the band locked in instantly while Billy gave it his best “Yeah, I did just do that” grin.  Great fun and just a bit strange to hear a guitar solo featuring a fragment of a song that I loved when I was just starting to get into music seriously.  You go to a Billy Walton gig, you expect the unexpected.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPaul Rose is one of those blues artists who’s well-known within the blues community but virtually unknown out of it; he’s also a great guitar player.  He put together the Paul Rose All-Stars to record an album of standards and to tour the UK this year featuring a couple of ex-members of Was (Not Was), guitarist Randy Jacobs and singer Sweet Pea Atkinson.  As a fan of Was (Not Was), that alone would have sold it to me but there was more to come.  Towards the end of the set, the band launched into a storming version if the brilliant W(nW) Dallas motorcade song “11 MPH” played with much more attitude and venom than the original and it worked perfectly.  I always love it when a band stamps its own personality on a cover and this was a stunning example.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Kennedys show at Kings Place in London had a couple great moments.  I’ve already mentioned “Rhapsody in Blue” elsewhere but there was another moment which was much more personal.  Since reviewing The Kennedys album “Closer than you Know”, I couldn’t shake off Maura’s tribute to the late Alex Chilton, “Big Star Song”.  It pushes most of my buttons with the Byrds/Merseybeat sus4 chords and a great melody as well as being a moving tribute to a pop legend.  So, how pleased do you think I felt when they played the song?  Dog with two tails doesn’t even come close, but then it got even better.  Apparently The Kennedys don’t play “Big Star Song” live very often, so my experience was rare and special.  Thank you Maura and Pete.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI always love to see musicians having a good time and most soloists enjoy trading licks with another player; it’s a challenge and a crowd pleaser.  After playing a support set at the Garage in Islington, Aynsley Lister was brought back by headliner Joe Louis Walker to jam for a couple of songs and turned what had been a fairly standard back catalogue set into a highly entertaining sparring match between two players from different generations with a huge amount of mutual respect.  Both players were obviously having a great time and the momentum carried on through the remainder of Joe Louis Walker’s set.  The audience loved it and the musicians loved it; double bubble.

And finally, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  As much as I love Bruce’s music, I had never seen him live before, mainly because I hate stadium and arena gigs, but I finally succumbed this year.  Musically, the E Street Band have always been superb (just listen to the Hammersmith Odeon 1975 live album) but The Boss always keeps it fresh by throwing a few curve balls and there’s always a few bits of pure showbiz thrown in as well.  At Hard Rock Calling in London this year, he pulled out two memorable and genuinely surprising moments when he brought his mum on stage to dance with him on “Dancing in the Dark” and then brought his sister, Pam, on to join him at the end of the set.  These appearances were special because they were surprising and they emphasised the importance of family to Springsteen (including his extended Jersey shore family) and brought a couple of genuinely moving moments into the rock’n’roll circus.

You can keep your big screens, acrobatics, pyrotechnics and instrument smashing, it’s the prospect of moments like these that will make me jump on the train on a rainy Tuesday in January to go and watch a new band in 2014.


Aynsley ListerEver since I first heard Aynsley Lister’s latest album “Home”, I’ve been looking forward to seeing him play live; last Thursday was my chance as he supported blues legend Joe Louis Walker at The Garage in Islington.  The majority of the audience had come to see Joe Louis Walker but were very appreciative, giving their support to a talented and charismatic support act.

Aynsley Lister live is quite an experience.  He’s totally at ease and confident centre-stage without ever appearing arrogant, but he has been doing this since he was barely a teenager and playing guitar since he was eight years old.  Bear with me here if you read my review of “Home”, but Anysley Lister is the real deal; he plays superbly across a wide dynamic range, he has a voice which is the perfect balance of power and control and he writes songs which step out of the standard blues/rock themes; how does a Gene Hunt tribute song grab you?

The set opened with “Big Sleep” and “Early Morning Dew”, from the 2009 album “Equilibrium”, before slipping in to a batch of songs from “Home” which effortlessly demonstrate the quality and variety of Aynsley’s playing, singing and writing.  The funky, clipped groove of “Inside Out” eases the audience out of the older material and into a couple of songs with a harder edge, starting with the menacing opening guitar riff of the “Life on Mars”-inspired “Hyde 2612”.

Next up is the more traditional blues barrel-house boogie of “Sugar” featuring André Bassing’s piano alongside some old-school blues guitar followed by the beautiful “Home”.  The final track from the album is another rocker, “Possession” which takes us almost to the end of the set.  The finale is a breathtaking version of the Prince classic “Purple Rain” which builds from a subtle and quiet intro to a storming climax to bring the set to a close.

The headliner, Joe Louis Walker, played to a hugely partisan audience and delivered a set which featured blues, funk, rock and gospel with stylistic nods to B.B. King and Albert Collins, among many others.  The high point of the set came when Joe Louis, in time-honoured blues tradition, invited Aynsley back on stage to jam for two songs.  The two guitarists alternated on lead and rhythm for a while before an extended session of trading licks which brought smiles to the faces of the two players, the band and the audience.  Great while it lasted but, unfortunately, it meant that the set peaked too early, apart from Joe Louis’s solo gospel song, his first encore.

So, back to Aynsley Lister.  He was even better than I expected; he writes, sings and plays beautifully live and, even playing a support set, he’s so engaging that he wins over the audience from the outset.  You really should have a listen to “Home” for starters and then make the effort to get out and see him live.  His tour dates to the end of 2013 are:


05/09/13     WIMBORNE                 Tivoli Theatre           www.tivoliwimborne.co.uk

06/09/13     PUTNEY                       Half Moon                www.halfmoon.co.uk

13/09/13     MILTON KEYNES       Stables Theatre        www.stables.org

14/09/13     SOUTHAMPTON        The Brook                www.the-brook.com

15/09/13     DARLINGTON             R&B Festival

20/09/13     BLAKENEY                  Harbour Rooms       www.blakeneyharbourroom.co.uk

21/09/13     IMMINGHAM               Golf Club

26/09/13     FARNHAM                   The Maltings            www.boogaloopromotions.com

27/09/13     SUTTON                      Boom Boom Club    www.feenstra.co.uk


07/11/13       CHISLEHURST         Beaverwood Club  www.feenstra.co.uk

08/11/13       KENDAL                     Bootleggers           www.bootleggersbar.com

12/11/13       CHESTER                  Telfords                 www.telfordswarehousechester.com

16/11/13       PRESTON                  53 Degrees            www.53degrees.net

22/11/13       YORK                        The Duchess          www.theduchessyork.co.uk

23/11/13       REETH                       Buck Hotel             www.buckhotel.co.uk

29/11/13       NEWCASTLE            The Cluny               www.thecluny.com


01/12/13       EDINBURGH            The Caves              www.thecavesedinburgh.co.uk

05/12/13       FARNHAM                The Maltings           www.boogaloopromotions.co.uk

06/12/13       DERBY                      The Flowerpot        www.rawpromo.co.uk


I may even see you there.