Review – Fabulous Thunderbirds – Southport

Posted on: Saturday, Jul 21, 2007

Southport Arts Centre: 19 July 2007

Since their formation in Austin, Texas in 1974, The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been a must-see attraction for blues fans, especially as UK visits are now quite rare, in fact the last time I saw them was at Colne in 1986, when they played a one-off gig and later the festival.

Constant through all line-ups has been the stunning harmonica and vocals of Kim Wilson – arguably the greatest white harmonica player of all time – and he has surrounded himself with a top notch band, consisting of Kirk Fletcher (guitar), Nick Curran (vocals and guitar), Ronnie James Weber (bass) and most recent member, Jay Moeller on drums.

The band kicked off with an up-tempo start of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ridin’ In The Moonlight”, and a rollicking “My Babe”, before the funky, soulful “Postman” off the recent “Painted On” release, illustrating Wilson’s fine voice.

The 90-minute show saw a lot of the songs stretched out, but fans of the early bar-band days (and three-minute tunes) were treated to a swinging “Wait On Time” from the first album, and “She’s Tuff”, also from the same waxing.

The two guitars of Kirk Fletcher and Nick Curran were given plenty of opportunity to shine – but a couple of minor gripes here – Fletcher’s seemed very quiet (perhaps that’s how he likes it), and those who have Curran’s solo releases would have been disappointed by the fact he only was given one vocal all show.

However, the large crowd lapped the band up, with “Early In The Morning” seeing Kim Wilson going ‘walkabout’ in the crowd, while blowing some stunning acoustic harmonica and finishing the vocal as well from the aisle.

He showed why he is so highly rated by blues fans and fellow musicians with the show closer – a storming “Hoochie Coochie Man”, which segued into a fast shuffle in ‘E’ (thanks Ken!), before a mega-long harmonica solo containing every trick in the book – very impressive, but a little overblown for me (no pun intended). The band returned to finish the shuffle and were then gone – only Wilson returning for a solo “Nine Below Zero” to round the night off.

A few fashion notes may be in order here. Nick Curran, the most unlikely looking bluesman you will ever see, looked splendid in ‘brothel’ creepers, white skinny jeans, and possible Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent sleeveless t-shirt and padlock jewellery, not to mention extensive tattoos, but nothing compared to Ronnie James Weber’s amazing collection of artwork – truly spectacular!

A great night, bar a few gripes, and well done to the promoter for bringing the band to the area, it was nice to catch up with a lot of friends from across the North West – the blues fans are just lovely people!




July 22nd, 2007 at 09:22
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With reference to the T-Birds gigs at Colne, seems I have gone back a bit too far – they were of course in 1996, with the mighty Kid Ramos on board! Going back even further, the first time I saw the band was at The Mountford Hall in Liverpool, around 1981, supporting Rockpile – a night that also saw a surprise solo set from one Elvis Costello! Seem to recall the ticket price being £2.50! Rockpile of course featured Nick Lowe in their ranks, who was producing the T-Birds around that time.



July 22nd, 2007 at 20:48
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Great review, Grahame. I agree with just about all of it. The long harp solo was too long but it was also mesmerising and very impressive. My biggest disappointment was the guitar playing: Kirk Fletcher was a bit low key and Nick Curran seemed a bit limited to me – particularly when backing and soloing for the two slow blues. Kim Wilson was tremendous and the rhythm section was top notch. I also agree that it was great to see so many of our blues friends supporting the gig – and full marks for John Sprackland for managing to put the band on.



July 23rd, 2007 at 00:42
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Full marks indeed – well done John. Thanks.