Mike Zito

Wednesday 23rd February 2022

The 100 Club London

It’s a real cause for reflection when you compare what you pay to depressingly watch your football team regularly underperform (especially when you consider how much, even at a lower league level, they get paid), against the very modest entry fee for a world famous club that puts on a brilliant night’s entertainment that creates a feeling of collective joy. It’s crazy. Opening up the bill was the very charming Gabriella Jones who played solo, using an electric. Her performance was enjoyable and she busked her way through some covers, including, bravely, a strummed version of ‘Alright Now’ and ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica, using a simple but effective one finger technique (she was slightly hampered by her inch long manicured nails) as well as her own tunes like the autobiographical ‘Dirty Dollar’.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Five Points Gang so their immediate high-energy aural onslaught was a pleasant surprise. The ensemble playing was excellent, full on and powerful, but tight as a nut. The three members locked into a rhythmic groove that still left plenty of space for their songs to breath. Front man Joe Pearson led the line playing some sharp rhythm while singing, breaking off to lock into frenetic riffing between verses and unleashing some biting solos, all while throwing some nice shapes. Dihno Barral was excellent on bass and backing vocals, as was Gaet Allard on drums, both making a strong impact without overpowering the songs. The only number I recognized was a gloriously funky version of ‘Superstition’. A superb live act.

Mike Zito also played on the evening as a three piece, with much less onstage dramatics than the support, but with a level of vocal and guitar mastery that was an absolute pleasure to witness. He was ably supported by regular sidemen Matthew Johnson on drums and Doug Byrkit on bass; collectively the three-piece exuded a level of calm proficiency and total class that is rare. There was nothing flashy about his playing, although he did a couple of those holding a sustained note with one hand while pointing to the heavens with the other, while displaying one of those “check me out” looks, as well as enjoying a little showmanship in tuning his guitar down for one late number, while still playing, before releasing a series of scorching bursts of pyrotechnically charged licks and fills on the slackened strings.

It was a great set, incorporating a few numbers that feature on his latest live album ‘Blues for the Southside’ including a masterful cover of SRV’s version of ‘Texas Flood’, as well as from recent studio album ‘Resurrection’, such as JJ Cale’s ‘I’ll Make Love to You’ and Blind Faith’s ‘Presence of the Lord’. Numbers alternated between slow burning Blues and his, I suppose you could say, trademark soulfully funky Blues. There were guest appearances from Will Wilde on harmonica, who burst on stage like a hurricane and blew like a demon for a couple of numbers, as well as label mate Thomas Atlas on guitar who impressed in a two-way call and exchange with Zito.

There were some fun moments that illustrated the guitarist’s versatility as the band slipped into ‘Whole Lotta Love’ halfway through ‘Judgement Day’ and back out again, and when the solo on ‘Gone to Texas’ morphed into ‘Jessica’. It was all excellent, one of those shows that makes you wish you could take home a live recording of the event. Mike Zito said he’d be back to the UK later in the year, which is good news, let’s hope that happens soon.

Simon Green