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Review: The Proof @ Lichfield Guildhall

The Proof, a musically accomplished and critically well regarded quartet played to an enthusiastic audience of blues and rock fans when they performed at Lichfield’s Guildhall.

Led by the singer Paul Cox, the group played an action packed two hours of blues, funk, and rock music. With a tight rhythm section of drummer Pete Stroud and bassist Nigel Hardy, colourful virtuoso guitar from Mike Summerfield, and keyboard player and songwriter Roger Cotton they offered something for everyone.

With a voice that was part Paul Rogers, part Ray Charles and part Rod Stewart, Cox led the group through a number of their own songs and music written by Etta James, Freddie King and Free’s Andy Fraser.

Starting with Roger Cotton’s own A Big Change Is Gonna Come was a wise choice, allowing for some fine ensemble playing, while a jazz/latin tinge was given to the blues standard Don’t You Lie To Me (I Get Evil).

A funk treatment was awarded to some of their songs, such as Heart of Stone and the feelgood Walking on Sunset. After a full-throated rendition of Etta James’s Damn Your Eyes, the band sequed into an instrumental coda, that was full of drama, well-controlled internal dynamics, and some fine guitar from Mike Summerfield, which featured lessons from the spacious dynamics of Peter Green, and the feral intensity of Jeff Beck.

The first half was closed with the well trodden blues classic of Freddie King’s Tore Down and a rock version of Dangerous Man.

The second part of the show featured a wider range of material and a slower pace. That’s The Way I Feel was a slow paced rocker, while Andy Fraser’s Be Good To Yourself was a song of fine melodic inventiveness.

The slow country ballad This Love of Mine featured more than three chords and gave chance for the band to show their full talents, before I Got The Proof showed a slow minor blues vamp, powered by some agile slide guitar.

A low-paced reading of Freddie King’s was a late set highlight, while the links between blues and gospel were highlighted in Feel So Bad.

The concert was finished with Bobby Bland’s Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City which gave a singing opportunity to the audience. An encore of the soul classic Some Kind of Wonderful was a fitting way to end the concert and showed that there was plenty of life left in the band.

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