Thursday 18th May 2023
This evening offered the best of both worlds, the buzz of going to a new venue I hadn’t been to before combined with an artist I’d seen a couple of times previously and listened to extensively, and who I knew was going to hit the spot from the off, which was the case. The 1865 is a great venue, not far from the main drag in Southampton but tucked away in a side street; it’s got enough space to pack ‘em in if need be but intimate enough for the audience to get close to the onstage action.
It had a really relaxed vibe and with a raised bar area at the back of the venue, offering a bit of separation from the folk who essentially use these occasions as a chance to catch up with friends and who treat the acts as providers of louder than normal background music rather than essential listening. There was publicised support from Laurence Henderson and a second band that didn’t get a billing; having to rely only on the mumbled onstage announcement, their name remains a mystery. They were pretty good though with some nice slide playing from the (almost obligatory) behatted singer.
On the evidence of the couple of singles available online, Laurence Henderson plays some fresh Blues Rock. On this occasion he wielded only an acoustic and was accompanied by his delightful keyboard player, who confined her support to backing vocals and some percussion. He played an enjoyable set with some very nice Jazz tinged, melodic acoustic soloing. Highlights of the short set were his 2021 single ‘Strings’ and a cover of JoBo’s ‘Dust Bowl’. It would be interesting to hear him play with his full band. Having a brief chat with him sidestage, it looks like he will be recording an album later this year, so something to look out for.
When I interviewed Dan Patlansky recently he mentioned that he would be playing a number of new songs on his tour and I can confirm that wasn’t a lie! The newbies that will no doubt form the basis of his next studio album seemed to have more of a rootsy bluesy feel than the more elaborate arrangements of songs on his last two albums in particular. The thing about seeing the South African musician live is that, while he has some stonkingly good songs to choose from, mostly with arrangements that transcend the normal twelve bar format, and which often have distinctive choruses that are sung with full intensity and bulging neck muscles, there is an awful lot of superb and very extended guitar soloing going on.
It’s easy to forget which number is being played at any point through becoming engrossed in the quality of the guitar playing, which is given plenty of space to be heard. He has all the classic Blues licks, moves and tones down pat, but rather than go through the motions, which a lot of technically good players are guilty of, I feel that he invests each note with a depth of sincerity and feeling that makes for compelling listening. The way that he builds a solo to a crescendo without always needing to show that he can go from 0 to 60 in ten seconds is exceptional.
The ultimate example of this on the night was one of few older songs on display, his trademark calling card, ‘Big Things Going Down’, which was, as expected, a bravura performance during which he extracted every possible tone from his distressed looking but gorgeous blue Strat’. Kudos should also go to his rhythm section; their ability to maintain the slow burn of this number in particular demonstrated their skills in keeping the ship steady while staying soulful.
When we interviewed him the guitarist noted that he normally plays with a UK backing band when he tours here, but this time would be accompanied by his regular South African band. The tightness of the three-piece was evident. Greg Van Kerkhof on bass also contributed some strong backing vocals; these stood out on a new number, ‘Movin' On’, which showcased the band’s ability to take the sound right down and to gradually build a song up to a powerful momentum, without thrashing around, and then take the foot off the pedal, while maintaining the emotional energy of the song. This will undoubtedly be a highlight of the new record when it comes out.
Drummer Andy Maritz had the look of a man who’d lost a twenty pound note, found a fiver and was trying to remember where he’d put it. Regardless of any sign of obvious enjoyment he was rock solid at the back and also chipped in on backing vocals. Collectively they were about a good a three piece as you would wish to see, exceptional musicianship without everyone stepping on each other’s toes.
Dan Patlansky is a superb guitarist, definitely one of my personal favourites. If you haven’t had the pleasure you should explore his recent catalogue and make a date to catch one of his shows, which are exceptional.