Review: The John O’Leary Band at The Harbourside Club, Liverpool – 21 February 2008
Posted on: Sunday, Feb 24, 2008
A faulty alternator caused the John O’Leary Band to arrive late at The Harbourside Club, which denied them the luxury of a relaxed set-up and sound check. Great credit is owed to the band that their stressful dilemma had no apparent effect on them as they immediately settled to their task and stamped their authority on the evening right from the outset.
The programme was opened, minus John O’Leary, with a jazzy, funk-edged instrumental. The singer/harmonica player then entered the fray on “Born In Chicago” and Junior Wells’s “Snatch It Back And Hold It”. They were followed by two slow blues – “Early In The Morning” and “Drifting Blues”. The former featured wonderful solos on harp, keys (from Jools Grudgings) and guitar (from Jules Fothergill) before a relentless crescendo that culminated in some frantic drumming from Joachim Greve. Jools Grudgings then delivered a fabulous boogie-woogie number before the set was concluded with “Little By Little”.
The second set started with “Yonder’s Wall” that drifted effortlessly into “Help Me” and “One Way Out”. There followed a stream of delight that included Jules Fothergill on lead vocals on one number and a fabulous version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin’”, which featured some lovely harp from O’Leary and an incredible solo by Roger Innis on his six-stringed bass guitar. On “Black Cat Bone”, Innis was again in prominence, this time sharing the limelight in a vibrant duet with Joachim Greve that, whilst entertaining, was perhaps a shade too long. Very appropriately, “Pink Champagne” completed what was a truly vintage performance.
The John O’Leary Band is a match for any British blues band on the current scene and simply oozes quality. The mellow tone of John O’Leary’s harmonica and the superlative virtuosity of Jules Fothergill and Jools Grudgings are brilliantly underpinned and considerably enhanced by the rhythm section from heaven. The suitably large audience was understandably knocked out by the performance – for the second year running. It is my wild guess that a third appearance next year is a distinct possibility.