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1. Working On The Road
2. King Of The Blues
3. Hear Me Calling
4. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
5. Bad Blood
6. Big Black 45
7. When It All Falls Down
8. The Hobbit
9. Love Like A Man
10. I'd Love To Change The World
11. Time To Kill
12. I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes
13. I'm Going Home
14. Reasons Why
15. Choo Choo Moma
disclaimer: what I am about to write cannot possibly do justice to how great this show was.
5am - finally back from New York City, and incredibly exhausted.
First a note on the venue - B.B. King Blues Club and Grill. It's a pretty swanky place, as you might expect. Total night club fancy upscale bar kind of atmosphere. Sort of like the Pepsi Roadhouse but twenty times fancier. You can sit at a table if seats are available, or stand. Food and beverages are available (although for pretty exorbitant prices - but then again, they do offer things like seafood and fancy wines). I got the B.B.'s Classic Triple Club, which was good, but basically like a good TLT (turkey, lettuce, tomato) you can get at any good quality sandwich joint. Our seats were right of center, and at the back, but the room itself isn't large, so even from there, we had a decent view of the stage.
The opening act was a band called The Lizards (http://www.thelizardswebsite.com/fans.shtml). I was totally impressed from the getgo. These guys are total hard rock, like metal but with the attitude of pure rock n roll. Their vocalist was awesome, and the guitarist had a crisp, tasty tone, and the whole band gelled well together for quite a heavy rocking groove. I enjoyed all their material, but two songs in particular that they did I really enjoyed. The first of those is one that was introduced as a blues - although it didn't really sound like blues, but that's alright. It was pretty sweet, and featured some exceptional vocals. The other one I really like was the last song they did, and it featured excellent performance from each member of the band. I'm really tempted to check out some of this band's music, maybe pick up a cd, who knows. As a side note, at least half of the other people seated at the same table as us were friends/photographers/some kind of connection with the band and not only did I see the bass player come up to the table after they played, but the people sitting at the table left to go backstage, leaving the table practically empty for the rest of the show, which was kind of nice.
As awesome an entrance as The Lizards made, one should not doubt the capability of Ten Years After to blow anyone and everyone out of the water. I'm not gonna try to explain why Joe Gooch is a worthy successor to Alvin Lee, because I've already done that elsewhere and the bottom line is - seeing is believing. He's got Alvin Lee's guitar chops down solid - believe it. Of course, his vocals can't quite match the unique identity of Alvin Lee's, but leastways he's a good blues singer, and the guitar makes up for it.
The band took the stage and opened with Working On The Road, which was partially ruined by the fact that you could hardly hear the vocals at all, but that was quickly fixed. The band then played a song from their latest album, Now, a track called King of the Blues - an excellent rocking blues track. Then, the band played a surprisingly powerful and hard-edged version of Hear Me Calling, which I was really impressed by. I feel like they've managed to evolve the song from it's rather light status to something with much more meat on the bone. Then, the band did another classic - Good Morning Little Schoolgirl - and it was excellent. Hearing Joe Gooch faithfully represent Alvin's licks warms the heart, but the fact that he goes beyond imitation and plays with a burnin' fire to make those licks mean just as much as they mean when Alvin Lee plays 'em is what really gets you moving.
The band then played Bad Blood, a song from the brief Ten Years After reunion with Alvin Lee in the late 80's, and then a new track - Black 45 - which is *not* on the album Now, but shows up on the live album Roadworks which I don't believe has been released in the US yet. Black 45 is a great song, and pure Joe Gooch. That's an interesting thing. To me, I feel that Joe Gooch's assimilation into the band really brings Ten Years After into the 21st century - the new age of blues rock, and this is especially represented in the new tracks the band is recording. It's remarkable that they can still do their classic material while at the same time perform these new modern-styled blues rock numbers, and it's not like either one is better - they both rock! It just fits together in a way you might never have imagined it, but the fit is so good, you can't help but love it!
The band did another track from Now - When It All Falls Down - and then Ric Lee was featured in his epic drum solo song - The Hobbit - while the rest of the band walked off stage for a break as bands were known to do in the old days. The fact that Ric Lee is still playing The Hobbit is testament to the abilities (and continuing abilities) of the three returning members of Ten Years After. And not just Ric, but Leo Lyons and Chick Churchill were in top form tonight. The three of them were having tons of fun, and they were playing to prove it. And all the time Joe Gooch was in the middle of it, having as much fun as anyone, as if he'd been doing this for the last 35 years.
One thing that's inevitable, is that there'll be people who ask, whether seriously or in jest, where Alvin Lee is, and I felt like the band took a casual while still respectable stance on this issue. They didn't seem to address it directly - it's obvious that everybody knew this guy Joe Gooch was standing in the shoes of Alvin Lee - and instead of invoking sympathy from the crowd for the tough position Joe is in, I feel like they were just letting the music speak for itself, and by god, it did. You want Alvin Lee? Joe's got it. And he's got some other wicked stuff, too! The crowd even booed Joe a little bit (although I'm certain it was a sarcastic booing) - and Joe played along with the joke, because he knew he had what it took to stand in Alvin's shoes, and so did everyone else in that club, whether they wanted to admit it or not. It was just an incredible show.
But getting back to the setlist, after The Hobbit, there were some introductions, and the band played the classic Love Like A Man. Again, I don't feel that Joe quite matched Alvin's vocals, but again, the guitar work more than made up for it. Everybody loved that number. Then Joe picked up an acoustic guitar and the band did I'd Love To Change The World, a number that I don't believe the original band ever played live. But this performance was excellent. Halfway through, Joe switched back to electric and brought it all back home - it was outstanding! A new old crowd-pleaser, by all accounts, I believe. After, the band did another track from Now, a song titled Time To Kill, and it was another good Gooch number.
And then the climax of the evening began. There was some technical difficulty with the keyboard that was quickly fixed, but in the meantime, Leo Lyons killed some time by mentioning the Isle of Wight festival, and the song they played there that made it into the movie. Of course, that song was I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes, and that's the next song the band played. Only two words could possibly be used to adequately describe the experience of hearing that song performed live by this band - FUCKIN' AWESOME! That was absolutely incredible. Just such a behemoth of a song! And Joe kept going and going and mixing in all kinds of classic licks just like Alvin Lee would. The power of those chords, though, and oh my god. I've always loved this song, but after tonight, my appreciation for it has soared to new heights. Words cannot describe.
After that finished, it was time for the tried but true closer - I'm Going Home. Once again, excellent performance by Joe, and the rest of the band. Joe really did appear to be enjoying himself immensely, the whole night. When he plays these songs, you believe them, even if they weren't his own originally. I really honestly couldn't ask for more as a replacement for Alvin Lee. Not only does Joe enable the band to do proper justice to their back catalog, which is a catalog that most certainly deserves proper justice, but at the same time he enables the band to move forward into the future in a respectable and enjoyable way. I really am entirely impressed about this band's performance tonight.
The encore consisted of two songs. The first was another track from Now, called Reasons Why, and the second was another classic, the rock n roller Choo Choo Moma. Of all concerts I've been to, of all bands I've seen play live, I am absolutely excited about the fact that I'll get to see these guys perform again in a few more days. If it was *anyone* else, I might have some doubts about seeing them again so soon, especially if I don't have reason to believe the show will be much different, but for Ten Years After, I can't wait to see them on Saturday even more than I could before I saw them tonight!
If this review seems particularly expressive or littered with adjectives or anything else, it's only because of the excitement of the experience. Having just been to New York City may have something to do with that, being the capital of the world and all, but it wouldn't have been so great without the performance of Ten Years After. One of the things that Ric Lee said after playing The Hobbit, he said something about The Rolling Stones playing in New York, which is odd, because I wasn't aware of anything like that, but Ric said that all of us there at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, we could have gone to see The Rolling Stones, but we came to see Ten Years After, and in his opinion, we had made the better choice! Wow. Once again, to sum up the experience of seeing this band perform, I can choose only two words: fuckin' awesome!
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