BLUESFEST: The Ronnie Wood Band

Music, Folk, country and blues
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BLUESFEST: The Ronnie Wood Band

Bluesfest 2013 comes to a close, with Rolling Stone and former Face Ronnie Wood leading his band in a tribute to electric blues pioneer Jimmy Reed. At last year's Bluesfest, Wood's homage to Chess Records included appearances by a seven-year-old guitarist, Stones alumni Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri and James McCartney – so you can expect guests of a similar calibre tonight.


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Is the Albert hall a good venue for a Blues fest? Surely a darkened smokey room? When a concert is a good as this it transcends even these sedate stately surroundings. This was a late night concert with a cracking band. Hand on heart I don’t own any blues CDs that I can think off. I wasn’t familiar with Jimmy Reed song book but I couldn’t stop my feet from tapping and knees swaying to theses blues rifts . This concert was a celebration of good music. A fair smattering of stellar stars from Bobby Womack to Paul Weller via Mick Hucknall and this was a night to remember. I could hear the influences to rolling stones tracks throughout . Ronnie wood was on good form and engaging and business like throughout. “I love you Ronnie” echoes through was almost full to capacity audience with a good cross section of ages. I missed the last tube home so had to night bus it, but it was worth it. “I love you too Ronnie”

Jimmy Reed was the real star of this show. Black and white photographs of the late bluesman loomed on a large screen behind the band. Bent over a guitar with an intense look, he seemed to symbolise the crucible in which music is made. The Ronnie Wood Band’s tribute was suited to Jimmy Reed’s memory. Wood, incredibly energetic, exuded total mastery over his craft. I’ve seen Axl Rose, fifteen years younger than Wood, show every minute of his age as his heavy bulk scuttled up and down the stage in a travesty of his glory days. He looked like a cantankerous lorry driver from the Deep South, indifferent and going through the motions. I’ve seen Leonard Cohen and my enjoyment was dependent on my constantly reminding myself of what he used to be – the sexy brooding looks reduced to a careful dignified elegance, doling out his old successes to the crowd as that what we were there for. With Ronnie, none of that. What it is with him is that he loves music; he’s a true professional. It’s his job and he admires people like Jimmy Reed, he’s their disciple still. He seemed genuinely concerned with bringing Reed to the attention of a wider audience. You got a feeling of humility, like he knew who the masters of blues were and was still learning from them. It was personal, too – he told us how Reed was an alcoholic and used to suffer epileptic fits, which remained undiagnosed for years as doctors assumed the spasms were caused by delirious tremens. Wood knew all about that, he told us wryly. I heard two women in the bus discussing the show afterwards. They mentioned his private life first: “Oooh yes, he left Jo for Russian young girl and now he’s married someone else. But look at what Jerry Hall had to put up with, too. Goes with the territory, it does…” “Yes, it definitely goes with the territory,” answered her friend wisely. That out of the way, they moved on to an analysis of the music – or was it of the age of the performers? For some reason the two seemed inextricably linked. “It was good, he was fantastic. And Booby Womack too, How old is he? And you know what, seeing Ronnie Wood didn’t make me feel old.” The other woman agreed. They went on to discuss how they didn’t mind being old, they were more comfortable in their skins. And it was all true. They had put their finger on the exact point. Wood’s performance was not harping back at his glory days. He was exploring something else. Music came first, and he’s at the top of his game, and that is what older people used to be respected for – their wisdom, their unflappability, their infinite knowledge. A dazzling array of stars joined the band for a few numbers – first Bobby Womack, then Mick Hucknall and then Paul Weller. Then Bobby again. They joined forces to sing Jimmy Reed songs, each bringing a different flavour to the music. Womack was majestic. Hucknall, not afraid of exploring the shriller ranges, stamped the songs firmly with his person interpretation, while Paul Weller was Paul Weller. Wood was great on the harmonica and the band behind provided a flawless accompaniment. The piano came to the fore thrillingly a few times while Dexter Hercules on the drums was out of this world. Jimmy Reed’s songs (Ain't That Lovin' You Baby, Going To New York) are all solid Blues classics and this tribute was particularly successful in bringing them back to life. The audience was rapturous. Some shouts of “I love you baby,” one from a man, drew laidback responses from Ronnie. “You all right, up there?” He exuded cool, from these repartees to inimitable way he held his guitar, all scrawny body and shock of black hair, all intense energy. In front of us two youngsters – a girl, maybe 18, in a tight dress, and her boyfriend, stood up throughout, dancing, writhing, enjoying themselves. The crowd was a good mix of middle aged rocker types, grey and white-haired people and lots of good looking youngsters – now that tells you all you need to now, innit? Beautiful young people are perfect for at least one thing; when they grace an event with their presence, they dilute the average age of the audience and they do shine a pleasing decorative glow on the proceedings. In exchange, they learned a few things and felt in their bones all the genius of an iconic performer.