LAURENCE JONES - HOME TURF GIG, NEW BAND LINE UP, LIVE ALBUM RECORDING AND ROCKING UP A STORM
Yet another spectacular performance by this amazing blues artist and another on home turf (he regularly looks after what he calls his family of local fans with frequent visits) and a particularly special show as his set was being recorded for a live album.
I was very impressed with the engaging support set by the charming Tom Walker playing solo here rather than with his band The Tom Walker Trio.
For me like Laurence he likes to play his blues with a soulful edge plus a touch of funk and his rich vocals and excellent guitar work on his original material mixed with ace covers made for a sparkling performance with the audience also playing a large part.
Loved original numbers ‘Into Space' with it's strong main riff and the laid-back soul of ‘Sweet Angel' while his impressive cover of Robert Johnson's legendary ‘Crossroad' (original title Cross Road Blues of course) was a perfect mix of being faithful to the original while adding a little of his own style.
The audience really warmed to his performance with several sing-a-longs and the stage/off stage banter was flying all set including from myself, after he announced something a little different I asked if it was a blues version of Supper's Ready to which a bright spark shouted out "he is far to young to know Supper's Ready".
I hold my hand up to admitting that on hearing in the queue outside that Laurence had parted ways with dynamic bass player Roger Inniss and added a keyboard player to the band I was just slightly concerned, but my worries were completely unfounded as the next almost two hours would prove.
The newbies to the band were on the bass Greg Smith who may not (at least yet!) have that famous stage interaction with Laurence that was one of Roger's trademarks but his bass work was top quality while for me the keyboards of Bennet Holland added a wonderful new dimension to Laurence's sound, I particularly loved it when he added a touch of that honky tonk style to proceedings (and a little of that Hammond sound also worked of course).
Still on the drum stool the magnificent Phil Wilson looking as cool as ever and as for Laurence, well he makes it difficult to review in a way because I always end up saying show after show that this is the best I have seen from him (and yes yet again this was !!!!!!).
Musically he is the complete package, guitar work up there with the greats of the genre with plenty of mixing of the blues styles while he throws in those touches of soul and funk with ease but he can also turn up the heat on the out and out rockers just as easily and his vocals for still such a young man always impress me with their maturity, tone and range.
His albums as with his shows also get better and better along with his songwriting prowess and his last studio album Take Me High was one of my top albums of 2016.
Stagecraft wise he is the complete package and has audiences in the palm of his hands with his friendly, good natured banter but he is also ultra professional as this show proved when during one of the show stopping numbers he handled a sound issue with complete professionalism and coolness.
The setlist for this show concentrated heavily on his last two studio albums or as he put it, to much amusement "all of our X Factor hits".
Highlights throughout including the heavy blues feel of ‘Evil', a fresh and zippy ‘Live it Up', Laurence funking it up on ‘I Will', the blues rock of ‘Good Morning Blues' and turning up the tempo and heat on ‘Stop Moving the House' for me the latter should be a regular in the set and I think it would also make a fantastic set closer or encore.
The epic of the night took us right back to his debut album and as he explained one of his very first compositions with a spectacular ‘Thunder In the Sky' full of atmosphere, style and amazing guitar work throughout this was also where the sound gremlins struck but when he had it sorted and restarted the number it was of course performed to perfection.
A real standout for me and and making up for no Hendrix blow-out tonight was his fab take on Eric Clapton's ‘Cocaine' with the crowd in great voice throughout and in a clever touch he also threw in guitar snippets of ‘Layla' and ‘Sunshine of Your Love' to make it a wonderful (no pun intended!) Clapton medley.
For me there is a touch of reggae to the funk blues of ‘Something's Changed' which was probably the reason we had a few lines of ‘I Shot the Sheriff' (Bob Marley style) blended in and I also loved it when those honky-tonk piano sounds lit up the groovy ‘Don't Need No Reason'.
To complete the night we also had a teaser for the next studio album and a real treat as Tom Walker returned to the stage for the last couple of numbers which included them trading (guitar!) blows on a pulsating version of blues standard ‘Every Day I Have the Blues'.
One thing I have noticed at Laurence gigs is that no one is quicker getting from the stage after the encore to greet fans, chat and sign stuff and for me this interaction is so important for an artist.
One of my memories from this show that also says so much about Laurence as a person is him trying to advise a young musician at the merch stand after the gig about making it in the music business, he was so sincere and interested in what the guy was asking and gave him a few pointers and told him to get in touch with him on-line as well - what a star.
A corking night of blues and so looking forward to the live album, studio album number 5 and of course my next Laurence Jones gig.