One of the country’s longest serving blues bands returned to raise the rafters of the Lichfield Guildhall when The Climax Blues Band appeared.
Local singer songwriter Chuck Micaliffe started the evening, playing songs by such luminaries as John Prine and Gordon Lightfoot, while a version of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright was an early highlight, his own songs matched the high standard with Old Man and The Sun, The Moon and The Stars both being fine narrative songs.
Technical gremlins interfered in the set, which saw the seasoned troubadour playing and singing without any amplification and still getting his message across.
With a history dating back more than 30 years, the Climax Blues Band marked their territory early on, with two Willie Dixon songs. Seventh Son and Down in Louisiana were tight, funk-based readings and allowed for some fine singing from guitarist and vocalist Stevie Hayes, and soloing from guitarist Lester Hunt and saxophonist Johnny Pugh, with strong support from keyboard player George Glover, bassist Neil Simpson and drummer Roy Adams.
Although the band’s repertoire comes mainly from the blues, the tight unison playing on saxes and guitars also betrayed the influence of jazz, a well as a definite rockier edge in such songs as Fool for the Bright Lights and Chasing Change.
Lester Hunt led the band through a blues rock Take Me Back to Georgia, while So Many Roads was a slow blues which allowed for a show stealing saxophone solo that was both technically demanding and also full of soul. The first half finished with a third Willie Dixon song, with a jump-jive reading of I’m Ready.
The pace was lifted during the second set, with a far more responsive audience being treated to livelier than usual versions of Little Red Rooster and Spoonful, both blues standards that can drag in the hands of lesser blues bands, or be treated with far too much reverence. The band got their hands dirty with both songs.
They showed their slow blues credentials with Last Chance Saloon while the pace really lifted during Couldn’t Get It Right – the song’s mix of a catchy beat and road-won musicianship providing the band with their best known song to date.
After this it was a straight home run with Towards the Sun and Let the Good Times Roll which was packed full of high quality musicianship and a very deep groove.
An encore of Going to New York/Money saw a fine guitar solo – the first of the night – from Stevie Hayes and it was a shame that the audience had to wait until the end of the concert to hear this facet of his musicianship.