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'London, Kennington, Hotel Gurbington, 9 April 2018'   

-  Genre: 'Blues'

Our Rating:
This was a rare chance to see Phil Gammage playing in London as part of a whistle-stop four-show tour of London and France, his first London shows for 33 years since he toured here with Certain General back in the day.

This show was at Kennington's most exclusive pop-up venue by invite only from Bhob Dhillon who I have known long enough to get an invite, for which I am very thankful.

So this exclusive audience was made up of the usual gigaholics you'd expect to see, several of whom like myself had seen Certain General back in the day and a few who wished they had.

Phil was playing a borrowed Fender through a vox amp and turned to a low volume. He sang without a microphone but was plenty loud enough for this venue. He opened his set with a rather cool, laid-back version of Baby, Let Me Follow You Down to gently warm us all up.

He then played another song from the Adventures In Bluesland album and a nice take on Ain't That Something that had his rich voice filling the room with the sad tale within the song. We then got the title song from his most recent album, Used Man For Sale, which featured some really nice laid back blues licks to accompany his vocals.

It was then time for a great version of In The Pines: the song I'd have requested if Phil hadn't played it. His rich honeyed voice really brings something to this song that many of the people who've sung it over the years fail to. It was very cool to hear it while watching Phil strum his guitar on the sofa he was perched on.

We then got the first song of the set which Phil almost never sings live; a beautiful version of Only A Dream from Certain General's classic album November's Heat. It worked really well stripped back to a gothic blues too. Then it was time for a cool Willie Nelson cover and a down home version of Nightlife that was more back porch blues than floor filler.

Phil then saved Wayfaring Stranger from the ignominy of people thinking it's an Ed Sheeran song by really bringing the country blues to it and making it sound like a gospel shouter although Phil was certainly singing rather than shouting.

Shed My Skin was the most unfamiliar song of the set (to me anyway) but like everything else, it sounded really great in this stripped-back setting. It was then time for Phil to ask One Kind favour of us to See That His Grave is Kept Clean. He played a really cool version of this much-covered classic and this was a great impassioned take on it.

He then went back to Certain General's November's Heat for a very stripped back version of Sympathy that really made us listen to the lyrics. We then got another song from Used Man For Sale, which I think was Arms Of A Kind Woman. Sorry if I got this one wrong.

What Tomorrow Brings helped bring us towards the end of the set and Phil started to thank us all for showing up before he closed the set with a bit of a sing-along to Goodnight Irene: a song I last heard played in Kennington by Michelle Shocked back in the day when The Cricketers was still a thriving venue. Phil still played guitar and didn't go for the acapella approach so many people take to this old Weavers classic.

Of course he got an encore and returned for some classic advert music with a lovely version of O Sole Mio: a gloriously cool set that left all the invited guests very happy indeed.
  author: simonovitch

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