I used to listen to John Mayall’s Blues from Laurel Canyon and Turning Point albums in the late 60s when I still lived at home. Most of my own pocket money went on books, as I recall, but I benefited from listening to my siblings’ albums, which included John Mayall, The Incredible String Band, Cream, Free, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan - you know, all the good stuff! John Mayall was already 40 in 1970, and Tuesday night was the 7th gig in his 80th Anniversary tour. To use a popular adjective of the 70s (the word ‘awesome’ only applied to things like the Northern Lights back then), he was amazing.
Mayall’s opening support band, King King, was pretty stonking - fronted by Alan Nimmo, their kilted lead guitarist. We looked at each other when they went off with eyebrows raised: if the level of blues they were belting out was anything to go by, we must be in for something even more spectacular to follow! And so it was - John Mayall’s voice may be a little diminished at 80 years old, but his playing, and that of his band (Rocky Athas, Greg Rzab and Jay Davenport) was of the highest quality. They played a set of over 90 minutes, with an encore, before greeting fans in the foyer (every band has to come out and sell CDs these days). After that they would no doubt have been getting on the road for the next venue, St David’s Hall in Cardiff. We peered at the punishing schedule for the rest of the tour - 39 dates, kicking off in Moscow and every night a different town with only Mondays off. Good Lord, a 20-something might find that schedule hard-going. John Mayall is obviously a man of steel!
There is something really impressive and deeply satisfying about watching or listening to a master, who has done their 10,000 hours, and more, in perfecting their art. I’ve seen a few veterans in the last year or so, including John Renbourn, Robin Williamson, Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, L’il Jimmy Reid, and they can all still cut the mustard.
If you want to get off your sofa and get those feet tapping, I recommend you make the effort to go and see John Mayall for some live music joy - you won’t regret it!
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