Review: Down at Antone’s with The Harpbreakers – Warrington Blues Club – 27 February 2009
Posted on: Monday, Mar 2, 2009
THE HARPBREAKERS & DOWN AT ANTONE’S
Warrington Blues Club at Warrington Town FC: 27.02.09
This eagerly-awaited ‘double header’ of two of the North West’s best loved blues bands, both now back in action after lengthy lay-offs, did not disappoint, providing the crowd at Warrington Blues Club with a cracking night’s entertainment, despite having to compete with a disco in the adjoining room!
Manchester’s finest, The Harpbreakers – Nigel Dunne (vocals and harmonica), Anthony Roach (guitar), Andy ‘Big Bass’ Sykes (doghouse bass) and Big Vern (drums) – opened proceedings, with a blistering, energetic hour of mainly uptempo songs, a mix of their own tunes and some choice covers.
The band’s own “Come On Down Here” kicked off the set in swinging fashion, showing what the band are all about – Nigel Dunne’s fine voice and harmonica, Tony Roach’s blistering guitar work, backed by the fine rhythm section. The great “You Give Me Nothing But The Blues” is now a stand-out in their repertoire – hailing from the great Ronnie Earl Black Top days, with Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals – and it was given a rousing performance here.
Little Walter’s “My Babe” saw Nigel Dunne singing while circling the room, and the band’s own “I’m No Good For You” – imagine Mick Green or Wilko Johnson meeting New Orleans – saw some great guitar from Roach, while prowling the area in front of the stage. It was nice to hear “Think” in the set, a great Texas-flavoured song from way back and another set highlight.
After a short break Down At Antone’s took to the stage, starting with “Riding In The Moonlight” – featuring Neil Partington’s fine voice and guitar and the big-toned harmonica of Ken Peace – the rest of the band being Glen Lewis (keyboards) and the rhythm section of Steve Brown (bass) and Nick Lauro (drums). The New Orleans rumba of “Poor Boy” was featured, a song the band used to do first time out, and featured on their Paul Jones show session way back.
The band include a good deal of funk and jazz grooves in the set, demonstrated by “Shakey Ground” and the lovely “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, a showcase for Ken Peace’s harmonica playing. However the blues was in no way neglected, with a slow-burning “Cross Your Heart”, originally by the great Sonny Boy Williamson, saw great solos from Glen Lewis, Neil Partington and Ken Peace, on both acoustic and amplified harmonica.
Nigel Dunne from The Harpbreakers and Johnny Hewitt from Smokehouse Blues were invited up to jam on a fast shuffle instrumental, all taking solos and then trading bars, with the rest of the band driving the music along – a rare treat, with three of the North West’s finest harmonica players all on stage at the same time – great stuff indeed!
The guests remained on stage for a further number, which ended a quite superb evening of blues and more – it’s great to see these two fine bands out and about again, with both having more gigs in the future months – and well done to Ray and Barbara O’Hare for putting the show!