Review : Phil Bates – Worthenbury – 17 Feb 2006

Posted on: Thursday, Feb 23, 2006

Thanks to Lionel Ross for the following review.

Phil Bates at Worthenbury Village Hall, Friday 17th February 2006

The acoustic days of the Dragon Blues Festivals invariably delivered a surprise package to delight the audience. The successor to those memorable events, the Worthenbury Blues and Roots Festival in July 2005, was equally productive in that respect in the form of Phil Bates. The lead singer of ELO Part II opened the evening session of that festival and such was his impact that he was quickly booked for a return visit to the village on the hugely popular Goin’ Up Country programme of gigs.

Phil Bates is a singer/guitarist/songwriter of immense talent. The range of musical styles at his command defies categorisation, which suits him fine, although there is a distinct leaning towards the blues in his eclectic mix. He opened his account with his own excellent composition, “House Of Blues”, which he sang and played beautifully. He followed that with three covers, culminating in a fabulous version of “The Wind Cries Mary”, complete with some wonderful guitar work. In another twist, the African-influenced “Township Tourist” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul Of A Man” paid substantial homage to the blues. Then ELO’s “Evil Woman” was prefaced by some droll, self-effacing narrative before the first set was completed with another original and a blistering instrumental in honour of Adrian Legge.

The second set was similarly wide-ranging and full of surprises. A whimsical view of new technology and a splendid version of “Waterloo Sunset” paved the way for the first appearance of the evening of Phil’s wife, Jo, on backing vocals and Irish whistle – the latter lovingly warmed by a trio of Wirralian nymphs in preparation for its playing. There was also an instrumental medley of Beatles numbers, played exquisitely in finger-picking style, and a terrific, vocal rendition of McCartney’s “She’s A Woman” with marvellous, bluesy overtones. To round off the show, Jo Bates returned to sing lead vocal on a Bonnie Raitt shuffle and to excel once more on Irish whistle in support of a cracking version of “Superstition”. Surprise packages can sometimes disappoint on eagerly awaited second visits, but the superb vocal delivery and instrumental mastery of Phil Bates ensured that there was never any risk of that happening on this occasion. Brilliant.

Lionel Ross

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