Review: Otis Grand – Birkenhead – 21 Nov
Posted on: Thursday, Nov 29, 2007
Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead: 21/11/07
Always one of my favourite bluesmen, it was great to see Otis Grand and his excellent band at Pacific Road, as part of the 19th International Guitar Festival of Great Britain.
After a few difficult years which saw him relocated to North Carolina, the big man is now back in his adopted Croydon – and after a nightmare journey up to Birkenhead on Wednesday, he showed what a true lover of the blues he is with two great sets.
As always with Otis the band were top notch, featuring ex-Ike Turner vocalist Jimmy Thomas, the horn section of Lee Badau (saxophone), Barry Martin (saxophone) and Mike Peake (trumpet), with Henry Carpaneto (piano), Stewart Panneman (bass) and Mark Wade (drums).
The show kicked off with a rollicking swing instrumental, followed by a dynamite slow blues, before Jimmy Thomas came on stage. His vocals shone on a trio of blues chestnuts – Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby”; T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday” and the tune made famous by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Otis Rush’s “All Your Love” – all complete with brilliant guitar from Otis Grand.
A nice start to the second set saw just Otis and Jimmy Thomas return for a stripped-down medley which included “Catfish Blues” and Howling Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”. The full band then returned for the swinging “Tell Me What’s The Reason”, another tune from the great T-Bone Walker, and another Wolf song, “Built For Comfort”.
The best was possibly saved for last, with the swinging Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown number, “She Walks Right In” – with the horn section trading bars in most impressive fashion.
A series of most deserved encores included the customary John Lee Hooker-style boogie and an impassioned “The First Time I Met The Blues”, a stable of Chicago legend, Buddy Guy.
As ever a great show from a top player, who upholds the memory of the blues greats, and bandleader, as he said – “no rock and no jazz” – a return visit next year would be in order.