Walter Trout + Alastair Greene
Sunday 21st May 2023
Islington Assembly Hall, London
It’s only eleven months since Walter last played at the same venue, but his return is always welcome, not least of all because of the quality of the support acts. For this tour he chose Californian guitarist Alastair Greene, who is now based in Austin, Texas (which is pretty much the Blues/Rock capital of the world; if you can find a bar there without live music, I’d be surprised!).
Already required to play solo, albeit plugged in, AG had compounded any difficulties by accidentally slicing a finger open a couple of days earlier, only narrowly missing a tendon. He recounted with some amusement what A&E in Newcastle is like on a Friday night, before explaining that he’d need to play his set with a slide protecting his injury. The opening number, an appropriately titled, ‘Walkin’ Blues’, showed that this would not spoil our enjoyment in the slightest.
In the absence of his band, AG had pre-recorded some rhythm guitar loops, which he demonstrated on the next song, ‘Drunk Again’, which he had temporarily re-titled ‘Pissed Again’, as he liked the British version better! He explained that he would be introducing the USA to “pissed” and also to “bits ‘n bobs”, while lamenting the fact that nobody had explained the phrase “Fancy a shag?” to him until after he’d declined what he’d assumed was an attempt to sell him a carpet!
Next up was ‘Lucky 13’, which first appeared in his ‘Dream Time’ (2017) album. This was followed by ‘Ramblin’ Mind’, which AG has been playing for over two decades (it appears in his debut album ‘A Little Wiser’, 2001), having discovered it in Muddy Waters’ 1969 album ‘After The Rain’. Another unrecorded song ‘People’ was followed by a surprisingly early set closer (25 minutes wasn’t nearly long enough!) in the title track from ‘Walkin’ In Circles’ (2009).
AG was very well received and deservedly so; hopefully a promoter will bring him back with his band before too long.
Despite his quick return to these shores, Walter has only retained bassist Johnny Griparic from last year’s band, although his long time road manager Andrew Elt still makes regular appearances on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. The newcomers are Richard T Bear on keyboards and Jakob Ronlov on drums, although “newcomer” is probably the wrong term for T Bear whose career began in the late 1970s, before he took an extended break from the spotlight.
The initial trio of songs were very similar to last year’s openers, with ‘I Can Tell’ taken from ‘Live Trout’ (2000), followed by ‘Walking In The Rain’ (from both ‘Postively Beale Street’, 1997 and ‘Walter Trout’, 1998) and ‘Wanna Dance’ (from ‘Ordinary Madness’, 2020). Walter introduced the next song by talking about his youth and the life changing experience of meeting B.B. King; ‘Say Goodbye To The Blues’, despite coming from 1990’s ‘Prisoner Of A Dream’, sounded as fresh as a daisy, with a fine guitar solo by Walter and tasty piano fills by T Bear.
‘Ride’ (2022) was released after last year’s tour, so we were treated to a trio of cuts from the album in the title track, ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Follow You Back Home’, all of which featured Elt on rhythm guitar. By contrast, the following ‘I’m Worried’ remains as yet unrecorded, as far as I can tell.
Walter then introduced two guests to assist him with songs from the all star ‘We’re All In This Together’ (2017); Will Wilde played some fiery harmonica on the title track, before Alastair Greene returned to the stage for ‘Gonna Hurt Like Hell’.
‘Destiny’ (from ‘Ride’) was dedicated to Walter’s wife Marie and he explained how he had met her at a show in Denmark and told her afterwards that it was their destiny that she would move to California, marry him, start a family and grow old with him. She told him that he was crazy, but a week later she caught a flight to California and, 33 years later, they are still together with three adult sons! The song featured some nice acoustic (almost Spanish) guitar from Elt.
As always, Walter took the opportunity to extol the benefits of organ donation, having received a life saving liver transplant nine years ago. His illness and recovery from surgery left him in a hospital bed for eight months; he lost 100 lbs in weight and had to re-learn how to walk, talk (never mind sing) and play guitar, as his memory had effectively been wiped clean. Medical miracles can happen and Walter is living proof.
The set closer ‘Red Sun’ (from ‘Survivor Blues’, 2019) was followed by belated band introductions and, like last year, an encore rip through ‘Bullfrog Blues’ by the band plus guests. UK fans will forever associate the song with Rory Gallagher, but, while tipping his hat to Rory, Walter explained that he’d loved playing it nightly during his stint with Canned Heat (around forty years ago). Fine solos by Greene, Wilde, T Bear and the leader sent everyone home smiling, as Walter’s gigs always do.
AG – Walkin’ Blues; Drunk Again; Lucky 13; Ramblin’ Mind; People;
Walkin’ In Circles.
WT – I Can Tell; Walking In The Rain; Wanna Dance; Say Goodbye To The
Blues; Ride; Ghosts; Follow You Back Home; I’m Worried; We’re All In
This Together; Gonna Hurt Like Hell; Destiny; Red Sun; Bullfrog Blues.