Eric Bibb / Charlie Musselwhite at the Barbican, London, 4th June 2004
This concert came about in order to launch the release of Eric Bibb’s latest album, ‘Friends’, and was incorporated into the Barbican’s “World Got The Blues” week. The first part of the show featured Charlie Musselwhite, who is one of the most slick and polished of contemporary harmonica blues blowers, with his own band comprising Rusty Zinn on lead guitar, bass, drums and a keyboard player who switched to guitar on a couple of numbers. Not being too familiar with his material, ‘Homeless Child’ was the only song I recognised, but there was a nice sounding instrumental with Mexican overtones and one with a Brazilian beat. Musselwhite’s timing was superb and both he and his band were highly competent, but whilst most enjoyable some of it was a little laid-back. After just half-a-dozen numbers they all trooped off stage but were ushered back on by the compere who announced that there had been some confusion about how long they were supposed to play for. After a further three tunes they vacated the stage again before returning to encore with a rousing ‘Highway 51’. Eric Bibb, with Pete Thompson on drums, Alex Yeoman on bass and Janne Petersson alternating between accordion and a Yamaha electric keyboard, opened with a song he wrote as a tribute to BB King, ‘Tell Riley’. Musselwhite joined them for the topical ‘Six O’Clock Blues’. ‘Got To Do Better’, with a similar message, and the love paean ‘For You’ preceded the introduction of special guest Martin Simpson for a take on Guy Clark’s amusing tale of ‘The Cape’. Simpson demonstrated his tuneful guitar technique, with some subtle use of slide on ‘Connected’, St Louis Jimmy’s ‘Goin’ Down Slow’ and Taj Mahal’s ‘Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes’ with Bibb in clear and confident voice. Folk diva Odetta was the final guest, duetting with Bibb on ‘Tain’t Such A Much’ which they wrote together over the telephone! She sang the traditional song ‘Roberta’ in her expressive well-worn voice as Bibb sat on the edge of the drummer’s podium seemingly in awe of his boyhood heroine. Bibb ended his stint with the romantic ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ which he wrote two days before the wedding of his eldest son, leaving the audience calling for more. A duet with Odetta on ‘Needed Time’ and an emotional reading of Reverend Gary Davis’ ‘I Heard The Angels Singing’ sealed a superb show.
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