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Philip Sayce + Troy Redfern

Saturday 25th November 2023

The Garage, Highbury Corner, London

The long awaited (over a decade) return of Philip Sayce to these shores saw a predictably lengthy pre-show queue outside the venue. On reflection it might have been wise to open the doors more than half an hour before the music started, as many missed some or all of the support set by Troy Redfern, who consequently got less of an audience than his music deserved.

A late night event at the venue was responsible for the earlier than usual set times, while the need for a short interval meant that Troy was restricted to only half an hour of solo duties. He selected five songs from his most recent two releases, opening and closing with cuts from ‘The Fire Cosmic’ (2021), with three songs from the highly recommended ‘Wings Of Salvation’ (2022) in between.

All these songs have been fully road tested and were played at the upstairs venue The Grace, when Troy co-headlined there with The Commoners in April. Armed only with his Resonator guitar and his trusty slide, Troy created impressive volume to accompany his rasping vocals, with the pick of his set being the long guitar outro on the closing ‘Sanctify’.

The hard working Mr Redfern also offered an impressively stocked merch table (half a dozen CDs, four different t-shirt designs, plus guitar string jewellery), something of which the headliner might take note; Philip had sold all his CDs and all bar the last few t-shirts before his week long tour reached London! It would have been nice if there had been some copies of his EP length ‘Scorched Earth vol. 1’ CD for us to take home as souvenirs, as much of his setlist could be found on that recording.

Sporting an impressive hat, Sayce hit the ground running, with ‘Out Of Mind’ (from ‘Influence’, 2014) leading into an instrumental jam, during which he played his guitar almost violin-style at one point (i.e. guitar neck facing downwards and its body up near his chin!). Bassist Sam Bolle and drummer Bryan Head kept pace with the leader, as he followed up with a medley comprising the title track from ‘Steamroller’ (2012) and ‘Powerful Thing’ (originally from ‘Peace Machine’, 2005, before reappearing on ‘Ruby Electric’, 2011).

The wah wah effects were prominent in ‘Bitter Monday’ (from ‘Innerevolution’, 2010), before things were slowed down for ‘Once’ (from his latest release, the download only ‘Spirit Rising’, 2020), which Philip dedicated to his father and others who also passed away during the pandemic. This was followed by an impressive Blues romp through a song from Don Covay’s 1969 album ‘House Of Blue Lights’.

The Blues feeling was maintained by a short version of Muddy Waters’ ‘Standing Around Crying’ (hard to believe that this song dates back over 70 years to 1952!), which segued into a song dedicated to the leader’s birthplace in North Wales (although he relocated with his family to Canada as an infant). Like Aberystwyth (which, if my ears didn’t deceive me, included a brief quote from Ravel’s ‘Bolero’!), the following song ‘Beautiful’ was also a dedication (this time to Philip’s wife) and also comes from the ‘Steamroller’ album.

A new album is promised in February and we were treated to a preview in the form of ‘Oh That Bitches Brew’ (not to be confused with the ‘BB’ album by Miles Davis), which included another musical quote; this time from ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (from The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’). The quotes kept coming, with ‘5:55’ (from ‘Spirits Rising’) including one which sounded suspiciously like something from ‘The Nutcracker Suite’, before it segued into ‘Alchemy’ (which, like the earlier ‘Powerful Thing’, had appeared on CD in both 2005 and 2011).

The main set closed with a combination of the old and the much older; ‘Morning Star’ stems from the leader’s 1996 debut (‘Philip Sayce Group’), whereas ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ goes all the way back to 1967 and Jimi’s ‘Axis: Bold As Love’. In truth there had already been much to savour for Hendrix fans and those of Stevie Ray Vaughan too.

As an encore we got an instrumental burst of ‘Slip Away’ (from ‘Peace Machine’), before Troy was invited back on stage to join Philip for a tear up on John Lee Hooker’s ‘This Is Hip’. Philip gave us a short blast of ‘I’m Going Home’ as a closer (like the opener, it’s taken from ‘Influence’), before we were obliged to reluctantly follow the song title’s advice.

Fortunately plans are already afoot to bring Mr Sayce back around the same time next year, so if you missed him this time, I’m sure you won’t make the same mistake twice!

Gary Smith


TR – Waiting For Your Love; Dark Religion; Come On; Sweet Carolina;

PS – Out Of My Mind/Jam; Steamroller/Powerful Thing; Bitter Monday; Once;
Blues Ain’t Nothin’ But A Good Woman On Your Mind; Standing Around
Crying/Aberystwyth; Beautiful; Oh That Bitches Brew; 5:55/Alchemy;
Morning Star/Spanish Castle Magic; Slip Away; This Is Hip; I’m Going

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