Review: Fabulous Thunderbirds – Birkenhead – 10 April 2008

Posted on: Monday, Apr 14, 2008


Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead: 10.04/08

Just some nine months after their last tour, The Fabulous Thunderbirds returned to the area, albeit with a somewhat different line-up to last year. Guitarists Nick Curran and Kirk Fletcher have been replaced by the dynamic Johnny Moeller, and Austin-based Mike Keller; with bass player Randy Bermudes joining Jay Moeller on drums as the rhythm section.

Still led by the great Kim Wilson, as they have been since they emerged in Austin, Texas in the mid-seventies, the band now deliver a more diverse show, as opposed to straight blues, what Wilson likes to call “American music” – indeed at Pacific Road in Birkenhead much of the show contained Stax-like soul tunes, but with of course still a good number of blues, and some old favourites.

The gig at Southport I caught last year was a little bit disappointing, with Kim Wilson overdoing the harmonica a little bit, but here he and the band were on top form – it would appears the new recruits have given the band a new lease of life.

A ninety-minute set featured some sparkling guitar work from both players – Johnny Moeller’s blistering solos took the eye, with Mike Keller also delivering some intense fretwork – being Texas-based, they were of course also top rhythm players!

Highlights on the night were the opening “Wait On Time” from the very first album back in 1979; “Tuff Enuff”, which was actually a hit single and moved the band on to a more nationwide platform, and the superb Howling Wolf song “Riding In The Moonlight”, with trademark harmonica from Kim Wilson, and a great groove.

The slow blues of “Head Out On The Highway” saw more lovely guitar from Johnny Moeller; with a spirited version of the Cajun-flavoured “You Ain’t Nothing But Fine”, a tune that has again featured in the band’s set-list for years, and also many other blues bands!

Kim Wilson is hailed as possibly the finest blues harmonica living today, and a long solo spot showed why, as the band started the tune, then left him to play alone, being joined by drummer Jay Moeller, and then the rest of the band returning to finish – great stuff!

Opening the evening were the Shropshire-based quartet Hot Rod 55, who delivered 45-minutes of turbo-charged rockabilly, and were warmly received. Heavily Brian Setzer influenced, highlights of the set included The Stray Cats “Rock This Town”; his big hit, the Louis Prima song, “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”, and their own “Rumble In Brighton” – definitely a band to catch again!




April 14th, 2008 at 20:09
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Paul Jones just revisited last year’s live T-Birds recording and “Riding In The Moonlight” was actually “Pretty Baby” – sounded the same tune to me though?



April 16th, 2008 at 09:34
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Cracking review, Grahame. I fully agree that it was a much better performance than the one at Southport last year – particularly in respect of the guitar playing. Kim Wilson was terrific as usual. The biggest disappointment was the low turnout.