Anyone visiting this site before will probably know that BW is one of my musical heroes (See Post - In Appreciation of..) Since I was about 13 (and prior to that if i'd known he was responsible for "It's All Over Now"). I have seen him twice before - once in about 1976 and then later during the Only Survivor phase in 1988. I hoped to see him again but drug and health problems made it look like it was unlikely. Then he surfaces in Gorillaz last year, appearring at Glastonbury and on Jools' Later... There was hope.
Thanks to SC for the early tip of the four nights at the intimate venue of the Jazz Cafe in Camden. This was a show to die for. 14 musicians on stage - all his rather than some pick up band. They knew his moves. His set list was built to please. The American Studios 70's hits - "Harry Hippie" about his wayward brother, "That's The Way I Feel 'Bout 'Cha" and my favourites "Across 110th Street" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out".
He told us that he hadn't been well and it showed in his lack of confident balance and, whilst his voice broke in some of those gravelly shouts of some tunes, he made it more times than not and at any level he delivered. He gave thanks and paid tribute to past stars, Sam Cooke (his mentor), Wilson Pickett, Janis Joplin, James Brown. There was a moving moment when on the mention of Marvin the room picked up on the hummed melody of "What's Going On" and took it over without him. He didn't dwell but moved onto his Gospel roots and then through the 80's hits of "Daylight" and "I Wish He Wouldn't Trust Me So Much" A soul standard written probably a decade out of time but thrilling here all the same. This is a true soul man.
The crowd on Tuesday including Rod Stewart (and Penny Lancaster), Mick Hucknall, Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones and Glen Matlock appreciated they were in the presence of class. As Mick Brown wrote in the Telegraph after Monday's show "...this was a demonstration of a noble and vanishing musical tradition, and of a great artist raging against the dying of the light."
Special mention to long term side vocalist Altrinna Grayson, who has a belter of a voice and acted as his aid throughout. This was an event and not just another great gig.