Review: Forty 4 – BB’s Blues Club at Alexander’s, Chester – 17 Feb 2011
Posted on: Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011
BBs Blues Club at Alexander’s, Chester: 17.02.11
The very excellent Liverpool/Wirral based band, Forty 4, delivered two great sets on a return to Alexander’s. The fast-rising outfit play a self-titled ‘rhythm and groove’, a mixture of blues, funk and rock, and probably take a lot more chances with the set list than a lot of bands around – incorporating more original material, together with some slightly different covers than is the norm.
The five-piece consist of Neil Partington (lead vocals and guitar), Paul Starkey (guitar), Glen Lewis (keyboards and backing vocals), Steve Brown (bass) and Nick Lauro (drums), all great players and without doubt one of the North West’s leading bands. Two cracking sets featuring a three-song cameo from harmonica player Ken Peace – a long-time musical partner of Neil Partington’s in the band Down At Antone’s, who graced the blues circuit with distinction.
They were down to business with a biting “Black Cat Bone”, followed by a funky new original song, “Feels So Good”. Ken Peace appeared early in the set for a brace of tunes – the rousing “Automatic”, penned by the late, great Lester Butler of The Red Devils; and the band’s ‘signature’ song, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Forty Four”, with Glen Lewis’s rolling piano work featuring here. The band fired on Don Nix’s classic, “Going Down”, a song forever associated with blues legend Freddie King, and here driven by the top guitar work of Neil Partington and Paul Starkey – and here being played by the band for the first time live.
Other first set highlights were the jazzy shuffle of “Man For Good Lovin'”, another new original song; and the closing “Superstition”, the Stevie Wonder funk classic, again driven by the two guitars, Glen Lewis’s keyboards and the rock steady rhythm section of Steve Brown and Nick Lauro.
The second set had very much of an Eric Clapton feel to it, with covers from various stages of his career – kicking off with an excellent “Tell The Truth” and followed by another song from the Derek & The Dominoes-era, the superb “Got To Get Better In A Little While”. A second set highlight was the gorgeous “Old Love”, a song Clapton co-penned with Robert Cray . . . the Forty 4 version featured a superb vocal from Neil Partington and blistering solos from him and Paul Starkey.
Ken Peace was invited up again for the slow blues of “Cross Your Heart” to deliver his big-toned harmonica. Buddy Miles song “Them Changes” is a song not many bands cover and here was quite excellently delivered, with a dip back to Clapton-related material with the very old song, “Outside Woman Blues” . . . which Cream used to perform. A great gig ended with a rousing “Shape I’m In” . . . the Texas rocker from the pen of Messrs. Bramhall / Bramhall / Benno . . . which probably would have featured Ken Peace again, but for the lack of a harmonica in the key of the tune!
A richly-deserved encore saw the band’s own shuffle “Just Good Cause” – the lead track on their three-track EP – round off a most entertaining evening from a great band, who in my humble opinion deserve to be on festival main stages throughout the land – indeed, this can only be a matter of time coming!