Wednesday 12th September
O2 Academy Islington, London
I have to come out as a bit of a Marcus Bonfanti fanboy, after seeing him over the years, on his own, and with Saint Jude, The Ronnie Scott's Blues Explosion and The Boom Band. So tonight’s set with new band Jawbone on their first proper tour was keenly anticipated.
Those that arrived early for this gig were treated to a stunning acoustic performance by Cairo Son frontman Magdy Addel-Rehim. All chat was immediately stifled and you couldn’t hear a pin drop for the half a dozen or so songs in his set including a passionate tribute to Chris Cornell. There may have only been 20 or so punters in the room but Magdy played like it was a packed Royal Albert Hall. Those unaware of Cairo Son should check them out - I bought the 'Storm Clouds' CD and it’s a great Sabbath-meets-Soundgarden-meets-Tool mashup.
Next up was an acoustic duo featuring ex-Dunwells man Dave Hanson. Sadly Dave wasn’t greeted with the same could’t-hear-a-pin-drop respect as Magdy, as by then another 50 or so punters had turned up and it seemed most of them seemed intent on trying to drown him out with chat about what happened at work that day. A pity as had they listened they would have heard a lovely warm set of acoustic Blues with personality and humour. Sorry Dave, but I was listening!
Fortunately by the time Jawbone came on, the crowd remembered they were there to see a band and duly S.T.F.U. If you’re familiar with the Boom Band you’ll know what to expect from these guys as Jawbone has two key members of that band - the world class keyboards of Paddy Milner who has a CV that includes Jack Bruce and Tom Jones - and Marcus Bonfanti, who along with those bands I mentioned earlier has also been a sideman for Jack Bruce, Eric Burdon and Buddy Whittington. They were joined by drummer Evan Jenkins, who you’ll recognise from Matt Schofield’s band, and if you’re floaty-ambient-jazz inclined, the Neil Cowley Trio. He’s also recorded with some bloke called Eric Clapton of whom you may have heard. Lurking on the right hand side of the stage is bass man Rex Horan who’s Evan’s colleague from the Neil Cowley Trio. So, hold your breath, these four blokes with all this experience and chops are about to perform in front of you, in the tiny space of the Islington Academy Upstairs.
Jawbone’s album has been in gestation for quite some months and we get ALL of it tonight. Every song. And it’s a treat. They kick off with 'Leave No Traces' - the first song on the album and that sets the formula of Paddy’s sweet call and Marcus’s gravelly response. Half a dozen songs in and you’re thinking to yourself - wow, this band reminds me of Little Feat and The Band. And just to prove that point, Jawbone pull off stonking covers of 'Willin’ and 'Rag Mama Rag'. Everyone in the room is a fan now. Next up is another song from the album 'Sit Round The Table' - a song Marcus introduces with a story of a house share in London from years ago and sitting round the table with old friends sharing stories and problems - and some of those people were indeed in the audience which made it all the more special. It reminded me of Cold Chisel’s classic track 'Flame Trees' with that song’s lyric about “..happy just to sit here a table with old friends and see which one of us can tell the biggest lies.”
Then were treated to another inspired cover - Stephen Still’s 'Love The One You’re With'. Sublime stuff. Another highlight from the set was 'Two Billion Heartbeats' - something we all have in common apparently. “Two hundred have gone just singing this song” goes the lyric. Well, at the end of this gig myself and another 100 or so humans had spent about 7,000 heartbeats each in the company of Jawbone and every single one was well spent.
Pete Elphick (photos courtesy of Al Stuart)