Review: Rocky Athas’ Lightning at Liverpool Marina – 17th July 2008

Posted on: Friday, Jul 25, 2008

Rocky Athas 

As The Rocky Athas Band had already delivered two stunning shows at Liverpool Marina, it was no surprise that the venue was packed to hear Rocky revert to a previous incarnation with drummer/vocalist, Walter Watson. They had taken Texas by storm in the 1980s with their band, Lightning, and this tour of the UK was a celebration of their music from that era. The trio was completed by Rocky Athas Junior on bass guitar.

The individual and collective quality of the Rocky Athas Band is particularly high. It is very much to his credit, therefore, that Rocky Junior did his father proud by forming a superbly tight foundation with Walter Watson to underpin Rocky Senior’s fabulous guitar work. A large part of the programme was taken from the relatively recent Lightning Strikes Twice album, most of which was written by Rocky Senior and Walter.

The show opened with the rocking shuffle, ‘River Flow’ and a couple of driving rockers – ‘Sanity’, which featured a blistering guitar solo, and ‘Ain’t It A Shame’. The slow blues, ‘I Will Love Again’ was embellished by another helping of virtuosity from Rocky Senior and the high-energy set reached a climax with ‘Shake your Money Maker’ and the fast-moving shuffle, ‘Stop, Drop And Roll’.

The second set was somewhat more varied in tempo than the first. It began with ‘Up To The Sky’, the lively opening number of the Lightning Strikes Twice album, before delivering an excellent version of ‘Little Wing’. The heavy rocking ‘Lightning Strikes Again’ led into Freddy King’s ‘Going Down’ and, if he was looking from above, the blessed Freddy would undoubtedly have been smiling broadly and nodding in approval. ‘Home Again’, co-written by Rocky senior and Larry Sandford, was unadulterated blues rock and was followed by Hendrix’s ‘Stone Free’, which featured a marvellous wah-wah-drenched guitar solo. The show ended with a taste of Dylan and a ‘Money Maker’ reprise as an encore.

The Lightning songbook is substantially more rock-oriented than that of the Rocky Athas Band. It is not for the faint-hearted and very possibly not entirely in keeping with the preferences of true blues enthusiasts. The emanation of the vocals from the back row of the ensemble rather than the more traditional front might also require adjustment. Nevertheless, the trio provided an evening of vibrant entertainment that was very enthusiastically received. Furthermore, the performance reinforced the fact that Rocky Athas is a fabulous guitarist, who can hold his own with the best.

Lionel Ross

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