Wednesday 24th July 2019
The Half Moon, Putney, London
This gig was more difficult to review than it should have been, due to external factors, rather than anything to do with the band. If I went home a little frustrated, then I suspect Ben did too, which is a pity because he played very well, even by his own consistent standards.
The show was the middle one of three nights to be recorded for potential inclusion in a forthcoming live album, although quite how London got itself sandwiched between Barnsley and Kendal is anyone’s guess! Playing gigs in the recent heat and humidity must have been difficult enough, but spending hours in it on motorways must have been a rare form of torture. And yet, as always, Ben came smiling through.
His humour was certainly better than mine, after a journey at snail’s pace on a faulty underground train caused me to miss the opening three songs; one of them, ‘Win You Over’, doesn’t appear on any of Ben’s recordings, so it may be a new tune.
I arrived just as Ben began a lengthy and comparatively quiet solo guitar introduction to ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’; unfortunately his restraint wasn’t matched by some of his audience and there were two or three pockets of very audible chatter competing with the music. Add to this the fact (and I may be in a minority of one here…) that I don’t think this song particularly suits Ben’s voice; it’s too closely associated with Freddie King, who sang it like a wounded lion and Ben’s comparative whisper, which sometimes sounds uncannily like John Mayer to me, doesn’t quite convey the pain in the lyrics.
That said, Messrs King and Mayer would doubtless have enjoyed Ben’s guitar solo, which seemed a fair bit longer than the version of the song that he recorded for his Royal Albert Hall CD. At the song’s conclusion he commented on the added difficulty posed by sweaty hands and guitar strings. He also reminded us that the gig was being taped and that there were microphones all around the room; he requested that talking be kept to a minimum, as any song with audible chatter would be useless for the live album. Sadly, his request fell on deaf ears (or maybe the culprits were too busy talking to listen).
All the remaining songs in the setlist were taken from Ben’s latest pair of albums, ‘Anytime You Need Me’ (2018) and ‘Time Has Come’ (2016). It made for interesting listening, as the earlier album had been a bit too smooth for my taste, whereas the more recent one was harder hitting and more guitar based. In fact Ben’s guitar solos dominated the proceedings, with the ‘Time Has Come’ songs getting suitably ‘roughed up’ and being all the better for it.
Ben was ably and sympathetically supported by Steve Amadeo (bass) and Wayne Proctor (drums) as he reeled off a succession of cracking guitar solos, which were all the more impressive because I know, from speaking with him after the show, that he could hear the distracting audience chatter throughout. He saved arguably his best solo for last, a beautiful encore version of the late, great Gary Moore’s ‘Time Might Never Come’.
So, the music was great and I hope some of the songs can be salvaged for the live album, as the guitarwork was exceptional at times. But, sadly, my abiding memory of the show was the disrespect shown to the band by the noisy elements in the audience.
Ben is one of the hardest working Bluesrockers out there, so it won’t be long before he’s back in London, I’m sure (The 100 Club on 19th January, if not somewhere else sooner); he’s well worth catching and, on the law of averages, surely the audience will do more listening than talking next time.
(Setlist: Take It No More; Win You Over; Start The Car; Have You Ever Loved A Woman; The Question Why; Further On Down The Line; Don’t Cry For Me; I Think I Love You Too Much; Lying To Me; Found Out The Hard Way; Stay At Mine; Anytime You Need Me; Time Might Never Come.)
Gary Smith (photos courtesy of Tim Russell)