The Basement Club, Sydney
7th February 2003
let me make two declarations: one/, I'm not a huge fan of rootsy blues,
and two/ I'm not a huge fan of Jimmy Barnes. These prejudices, especially
the first one, meant that for me Jon and the Hoochie Coochie Men were
already starting at a slight disadvantage.
Having seen Jon with george and the Sydney Symphony at the Opera House
a couple of weeks earlier, I was very much looking forward to what was
to have been the original Basement show, with a ten piece band including
a string quartet, and Miller Anderson thrown in for good measure. The
original notion was to perform a Pictured Within show: however
as most of you probably already know, these plans were shelved when
Jon injured his thumb at the final 'george' show, rendering him unable
to play classical piano. However still being able to play (or should
that be 'tame') The Monster - the Big Bad Hammond - hurried plans were
made to salvage the shows with a blues-based set featuring Jon supported
by Australia's own Hoochie Coochie Men.
The set consisted almost entirely of roots blues covers, featuring the
work of people like Willy Dixon, Howlin' Wolf and a lot of Muddy Waters.
The band was super tight, with Bob Daisley's bass providing a solid
- well, base! - for the band to work off. His playing is very fluid
and measured, almost melodic (if a bass can be such a thing!), though
like Roger Glover he stays fairly low in the mix. He's obviously a very
competent player, having
played with the likes of Gary Moore, Ritchie Blackmore and Steve Vai,
but his playing on Friday night was definitely more laid-back than flashy.
I guess an unobtrusive bass style suits this kind of music, though in
another context I'd like to hear him cut loose with a more upfront,
chunky sound. Bob
looks for all the world like a genetically-engineered cross between
Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, with a bit of Blackmore curly-locks thrown
in for good measure. (Not to mention his way cool white leather boots
with the black zebra stripes!) He has that air of someone who's been
round rock'n'roll for an awfully long time DOWN!
The rest of the band does too for that matter, mainly because they HAVE!
And that's another of my abiding impressions of the show: here is a
bunch of superlative musos, each of whom knows his craft just SO well,
but most of them - I guess with the exception of Jon and maybe Bob -
just don't get the recognition they deserve in a world run by accountants
and a music industry run by marketers and PR people. Guys of this vintage
and this calibre deserve to make a good living out of music, but most
- at least in Australia - find it very hard to survive off music alone.
Hence we have a lot of famous, or once-famous, musicians working as
landscape gardeners or computer consultants, while pubescent kids who
may have been on a soap opera often get the exposure and all that comes
it's a great pleasure to see seasoned professionals like these guys
enjoying playing together so much! I guess that's one reason I've also
enjoyed seeing Deep Purple's live shows in the Morse era too; the smiles
you see between the band members as they play are just so infectious.
They are obviously getting such a buzz from playing together, and that
is somehow reflected in the music. Often during Jon's solos in particular,
the rest of the band would be just beaming with admiration and joy as
they watched the master at work!
Seeing Jon play with Deep Purple was always a pleasure, but seeing him
as the band leader, as the driver of the music, the showcase, was another
experience altogether. And especially so in a small, intimate venue
like The Basement. The sense of closeness, the personal contact one
feels with the band and the music, is something that just can't be captured
in a big hall.
When Jon cut loose on that Hammond, the place was just abuzz! My God
he can make that beast sing! And it was also nice to observe how diverse
an audience it was: people from their late teens to their sixties all
shared in the excitement!
Jon's between-songs banter was relaxed and jovial, with lots of funny
little quips and anecdotes from a musical career that's getting on to
some forty years (as he observed at one point). One line was about the
playing music by the great composers, and in particular "the three Bs
- Bach, Beethoven, and Black Sabbath!" There were also some great throwaway
lines about Purple and his career in general. For example he spoke
admiringly of Ritchie Blackmore in the 70s, then corrected himself saying,
"Oh no, that was Honor Blackman wasn't it". (For those not in the know,
she was a Brit tv star from the era who was in The Avengers among other
things.) (Pussy Galore in Goldfinger!)
At one point he played what I think was a song from his "holiday with
Whitesnake"; it's not one that I really recognised but others can probably
fill-in the missing piece.
As others have observed, there was a cover of the Willy Dixon song that
Plant / Page supposedly stole and turned into Whole Lotta Love. It was
definitely recognisable as that, but with a totally different feel,
much more cruisy and laid-back. Very nice stuff.
there was the 'surprise guest' Jimmy Barnes, who was once considered
as a possible replacement for Gillan in dp, around the time of the Joelene
Turner era. Maybe he would have been a better choice? Anyway as stated
at the beginning, I'm not a huge fan because, as others have said, Jimmy
'only has one gear' as a singer. That aside, his without doubt one of
the great rock n roll screamers. Barnsey's voice is what Brian Johnson's
aspires to be, but Brian's ends up sounding more a cartoon character
- Donald Duck on speed as others have opined. Whereas Barnsey can actually
pull it off, and manages to get the power behind the scream. What's
wearing about listening to him though, is that that's all he does, which
ends up leaving the impression that that's all he CAN do, that he's
not at all capable of subtlety.
Well I've got to say that on Friday night he showed that he really can
sing. In a smaller venue, without the expectation that he'll sing the
'bit hits', he managed, at least for a time, to drop down a gear and
allow the songs room to breathe. Not so much in Muddy Waters' Hoochie
Coochie Man though, which was one of the highlights of the night!
That song lends itself to a bit of screaming and Barnsey sang it superbly.
But in the one Purple song of the night, When a Blind Man Cries,
he sang with considerable feeling. Very nice to hear an alternative
take on this song, and that was also a standout for me.
Apart from the blues standards, there were a few bits n pieces that
Jon had dug-up from the 60s. There was Green Onions featuring
the Hammond as the main instrument, originally done by Booker T and
the MGs. There was also the majestic intro on the Hammond that featured
bits of Lazy and a couple of other Purple snippets.
the 'powder room' a lady asked my wife Tracey what she thought of the
show. Turned out she was Bob Daisley's sister and she said "we're all
very proud of him"! Tracey said that, as much as she loved the show,
she was a bit disappointed not to have seen the originally-intended
show with the string quartet etc. Bob's sister said Jon was disappointed
too, but that he'd had such a great time he said he'd like to come back
next year and would like make it an annual thing! That would be very
nice indeed for we in Oz! though EVERY year might be a bit TOO much
to hope for! Then again, he seemed so relaxed and effusive after his
time here that, who knows, maybe he'll move out here!
He's obviously been enjoying the change of pace (paice?) and mentioned
that his wife and daughters were at the show too. It was a great night,
and a real treat to hear the master of the Hammond at such close quarters.
Very much looking forward to the next chapter in what's looking like
a whole new creative era for Jon Lord.
Paul Hogan, photos: Tom Bradbury
Suffice to say
that Mr Lord has really kicked on since leaving Deep Purple. Sad to
say in a way, but it was probably the best thing he could have done.
He really seemed happy and was on fire, as were his backing group The
Hoochie Coochie Men.
This was as good a concert as any I have been to and they covered so
many artists, as well as their own stuff, that it was amazing to think
they probably have had bugger all practice/rehearsals.
The gig was really
first class with the choice of music and the overall standard of musicianship.
There were 1 or 2 fluffed cues but they've only been together for a
week or so. And if anyone likes the blues - The Hoochie
Coochie Men deliver. Because of my love for the blues (and Deep Purple,
Jon Lord, Time Gaze, etc) maybe I'm a bit biased - BUT WHO BLOODY CARES!!!
It was one hot gig. I'll make a few short, sharp (I hope) comments.
The guys they covered on the night - Cream, Willie Dixon, Peter Green,
SRV, Johnny Winter and more. And I'm pretty sure those guys would have
been proud. Just think that Jon didn't have his own original Hammond
and yet he dragged some sounds out that were awesome.
Men - what can I say. I think that if anyone who was there at these
concerts doesn't go to see them if they are nearby needs their heads
read. How much practice/rehearsal did they all have? I liked Jon's comment
that an hour before the show he said to Jim Conway "If I nod to you
can you do something". Jimmy Barnes - that version of Hoochie Coochie
Man was bloody good. If Jimmy sang that type of music I think I'd
be a fan of his. When A Blind Man Cries - he (Jimmy Barnes)
did a passable job but he just doesn't suit the song.
Highlights - Strange
Brew (with washboard and Dobro yet!!!), 24/7 Blues, You
Need Love, Dallas, Green Onions (from his first ever
pro gig with Redd Bludd according to Jon), Jon's solos. Whenever I looked
at Tim Gaze watching Jon play he had this silly grin as though he couldn't
believe what he was seeing and hearing. And Jon seemed suitably impressed
as well. I also loved Jon's little asides and jokes. They showed he
was really relaxed and in the groove.
Dud notes - (none really) - there may have been a few missed cues or
notes not quite right (I'm no expert but anyway a live gig is supposed
to be warts and all) but the overall feel of that concert was incredible.
Thankfully no one called for Smoke On The Water. Too bad they didn't
do Crossroads, that would have been a kicker.
review: Colin Hadden