The John Verity Band
Thursday 8th September 2016
The Onyx Bar, Inamo, London
Following a riotous meeting with Colin & AJ at the Joe Bonamassa gig at The Cavern in Liverpool last month, I was looking forward to attending this invitation only gig in this classy venue in Covent Garden. Being a John Verity virgin, I really had no idea what to expect of the evening other than being unceasingly ribbed by the Wrinklies in their inimitable manner. Of course they didn’t disappoint me on that front. Only knowing Argent hits ‘Hold your Head Up’ and ‘God Gave Roll & Roll To You’ I was intrigued to know how the evening would roll.
The venue is tucked away in a small backstreet off Long Acre in Covent Garden and is an upmarket restaurant with a small basement bar. I arrived early and found John busily loading in his gear to the venue with the help of his band and his wife. This clearly was going to be a gig from a seasoned, working musician not afraid to roll his sleeves up for his art.
Unassuming in appearance with a shock of flowing grey locks and a bauble of an earring, giving some indication of his Rock and Roll roots, John set himself up with his Gibson J45 Custom Goldtop with Fishman Rare Earth pickup played through an Aura Imaging system and his bandmates Russell Rodford sitting on his bass amp with his Fender Precision Bass on his knee and Liam Gray on a mini drum kit consisting of a bass and snare drum and a couple of cymbals completing the set up.
Opening with Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Help Me’, the power of this trio became immediately apparent. I was surprised to see that the bass drum was miked in such a small venue, but the power of the driving bass drum gave the set a real boost, with Liam making the most of his paired down kit at every opportunity. Russell provided the menacing bass swagger required for this dark old tune. John’s virtuosity on the guitar with soaring solos interspersing the mesmeric twelve bar loops reminded everyone that he has most certainly paid his dues to the Blues.
The roll call of Blues standards continued with the Otis Rush classic ‘Double Trouble’, with John getting the crowd engaged with his metronomic foot stomping to this classic Blues number. Keeping the tempo up with Tommy Tucker’s ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’, John then gave us a JVB number ‘Prove Your Love’, a lament on love and relationships followed by Etta James’ ‘The Blues is my Business’. The first set continued with a fantastic take on JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ with the riff played with chunky full chords and the lyrics sung with real passion and soul. It was now it became apparent that John’s voice was every bit as great as his guitar playing. Reminiscent of early Stan Webb in its almost operatic quality, John has certainly retained the ability to hold a tune. The first set drew to a close with Muddy Water’s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, Wilson Pickett’s ‘634-5789’, The Zombies ‘Time of the Season’ going into the break with a rousing version of Freddie King’s ‘Going Down’.
During the break, we indulged in Japanese tapas and lots of Kirin beer. This really is a very agreeable venue for an up close and personal gig. Looking around the room, the atmosphere was relaxed and convivial with a mix of musicians including ex-Bad Company guitarist Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell and ex-Zombies bass guitarist Chris White with JV fans making up the demographic including the ever present Mark Leveson adding to the colour of the evening.
Set two kicked off with Buddy Guy’s ‘Never Gonna Change’ a classic 12 bar blues in E with John’s band members Russell and Liam really looking as though they were enjoying the evening, both singing along with John whilst keeping the groove rolling. Into ‘Hallelujah’, the Ray Charles classic, we were reminded of Eddie Cochran’s brilliant version of this infectious rocking number and we were well and truly into the realms of John’s Rock and Roll upbringing. ‘Say Why’, from JVB’s 2007 album followed and then into a cracking version of Screamin’ Jay’s ‘Put a Spell on You’, which again gave John the platform to air his awesome vocal ability. If this one didn’t make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, then nothing would. You couldn’t help but sing along, feeling you were really part of this memorable evening.
John introduced the title track to his new album ‘My Religion’, his take of a life in music and living together in peace and harmony without the need for a deity to follow. This was followed by another Sonny Boy Williamson song ‘Bring It on Home’ which got some of the crowd on their feet dancing and showing their appreciation for the band. The Willie Dixon penned ‘Spoonful’ continued the dancing vibe and again animated the band into a driving, mesmeric groove that the crowd lapped up.
Coming up the home straight, John’s many years of live touring shone through with a rousing finale including ‘Crossroads’, ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ where he invited all of us old enough to remember the dance to join in. Of course, I am too young to remember such things. Into Steve Stills ‘Love the One You’re With’ and the crowd continued to strut their stuff on the dance floor. Keeping the excitement rolling to the end, the lads finished with ‘Route 66’ in true Rock and Roll style and knowing they were going to be expected to give us all more. When the roaring appreciation had died down to a deafening din, the boys obliged with a stonking version of ‘Johnny B Goode’ leaving us all gagging for more and wishing the evening would continue into the wee small hours.
This truly was an amazing evening, in a really classy venue where we all felt like VIPs at a very special show. Thanks to Colin & AJ for the invitation, John, Russell and Liam for the music and of course, John’s wife Carole for manning the Merch stand. Let’s hope this becomes a regular venue for gigs as I have a feeling it will become very popular.