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'London, Nell's Jazz & Blues Club, 29 June'   

-  Genre: 'Rock'

Our Rating:
This show was billed as being an all-star celebration of Chris Spedding's 50 years as a professional musician and also 50 years since Nell's Promoter Stuart Lyon booked Chris for the first time.

The fact that a musician as legendary as Chris Spedding wasn't celebrating with a gig at the Royal festival Hall or Barbican was a bit surprising but it also meant that I knew this gig would be packed to the rafters. And indeed it was.

First on was Molly Armstrong: a young singer-songwriter who was accompanied by Treana Morris, formerly of the Wire Daisies on acoustic guitar and backing vocals. Her first song was about Falling From The Other Side and it grabbed the attention of most of the audience, sounding pretty heartfelt and real.

She then told a heartbreaking story about how her mum had died 3 years ago and how the song was about dealing with the loss of a parent at an early age. This was very emotional and had lots of guts behind it; a very good performance and she did look like she might start to cry at one point.

She then introduced a new song Liar about how your flat mate might want to be more than a flat mate. It also felt as though it came from personal experience which certainly helped as she started to remind me of a cross between Alanis Morrisette and Dolores O'Riordan both vocally rather than lyrically. She has a good powerful voice and thankfully something to say.

Amazing wasn't quite as Amazing as she would like to be but still had plenty going on both lyrically. Now, If I could only remember who else I've seen Treana playing with. Anyway, Molly closed her set with Only Human which, another cool song about love going wrong at an early stage. This was a nice short set and Molly Armstrong is certainly worth checking out.

After the break Stuart Lyon gave a short introduction before welcoming the two Chris' to the stage, so that Chris Welch could discuss Chris Spedding's 50 year career with the man himself. Well, they they managed to cover up until about 1974 or so before they ran out of time, but during that time we got stories of Chris playing on the cruise ships taking 10 pound poms to Australia to working playing Bass for Dusty Springfield and guitar for Jack Bruce, Sharks, Mickie Most, Jeff Wayne and his big solo hit Motorbiking among others.

As well as discussion about his first album proper, after some talk about the Battered Ornaments, that Chris Welch didn't name but is of course Backwood Progression and he managed to not ask if the song on that album Session Man was his first version of Guitar Jamboree: a song they did discuss.

With a career as long and varied as Chris Speddings it's no surprise they didn't mention his work with among others Joan Armatrading, John Cale, Bryan Ferry, The Wombles, The Sex Pistols or The Vibrators to name a few.

Then it was time for the band to come on and Chris was joined for the night by Henry Spinetti on Drums, Archie Archiero on Bass and Jono Harrison on keyboards and despite the amount of musicians in the audience this remained his line-up throughout. They opened with a very cool version of Wild In The Street that had some rather laconic singing from Chris and of course some magical guitar work as well.

Counterfeit was next which as a seasoned session man Chris may have helped make the odd counterfeit over the years. This, though, was as real as it gets - a great song driven along by a super tight band. They took a well-seasoned classic Shakin' All Over and kept it fresh with a slightly different arrangement and Chris taking a really cool solo that like all his solos at the show was never that long but, damn, his finger work on the fretboard was a joy to watch.

Silver Bullet, thankfully, flew past with some cool keyboard work and Chris making sure to allow his band the opportunity how great they all were. Stumble was about as fluid as a song about stumbling can get before he played the classic Mary Lou, rewarding us with a nice extended version that went down a treat.

Listening to the lyrics of Portobello and how he will always feel at home there was very cool and no matter how much the area changes it will always be a good muso hang out and of course this is a pretty nifty tune as well.

Louisianne is as droll a love song as you could wish for. It was played slow and a little bit slinky bringing out plenty of emotion in both the playing and the lyrics. Chris then gave a good intro to the old song he wrote with Jack Bruce, Theme From The Imaginary Western, that really makes me want to find the albums he did with the late Cream frontman. It was very cool to hear this live with Jono Harrison taking lead vocals on it as he has a high enough voice.

Keeping things western we then had Gunfight: a very Link Wray-style instrumental that had some amazing twangy fret-work from Chris as Archie worked almost double time on Bass to keep it pumping along.

Chris then played She's My Friend live for the first time since 1970 when it came out on Backwood Progression which made the need for a lyric sheet rather understandable. It sounded damn good and here's hoping he can stick The Soldier And the Goodtime Girls into the set from the same album soon.

They then turned into a slow train for Catch That Train, which sped up nicely as the song went on before they almost deconstructed Rip It Up to make it their own which with a song as covered as that is never easy. But with a band this great they did so without skipping a beat.

We then got the Sharks classic Music Breakout to get many of us singing along in time for the only slip up of the evening as they mucked up the intro to Motorbikin' badly enough that Chris stopped the band and made them start it a second time like they were having trouble getting a Bike started on a cold morning. Second time round of course they nailed it.

Inevitably, they closed with Guitar Jamboree wherein Chris showed he can mimic as many styles as you wish from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton and beyond. As ever it sounded great and went down a treat and guaranteed an encore.

Guy Pratt jumped on-stage to make us all cheer some more and thank Chris for being the sort of humble musician who generally doesn't like too much fuss as the band came back on and played a really good version of Summertime Blues to leave us all smiling and looking forward to seeing Chris continue his incredible career. If you haven't seen him play at this stage, why ever not?
  author: simonovitch

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