Lazy Lester at the Metro Club, London, 19th March 2006
This, fortunately, proved to be a very successful gig with a good-sized turnout. Lester, the last survivor of what can be termed the classic Excello stable, had himself performed surely one of his greatest gigs ever on UK soil. Later for that baby, ‘cos the guys who provided the first-rate backing, Big Joe Louis and the Blues Kings, cooked up a tasty opening set. Singer/guitarist Joe, with Little George Sueref on guitar, harmonica and vocals, Wayne Hopkins on bass and Paul Atkinson on drums, included the excellent “She Was All The World To Me” (from the “Big Sixteen” album on Ace) as part of his song selection, while George wailed Rollie McGill’s “Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie” with aplomb. Lester hit the stage before we knew it, and kicked off with a breezy instrumental (“Lester’s Stomp”?) before getting down with a decent crack at Jimmy Rogers’ ”That’s All Right”. Following this came a great slow blues from the Excello days, “Patrol Blues”, then us cats trucked on down to “I’m In Love With A Woman” and probably Lester’s greatest hit (other than “I’m A Lover Not A Fighter” which regrettably wasn’t heard tonight), “Sugar Coated Love”. Another tremendous slow blues “Strange Things Happenin’ Every Day” was swiftly followed by an extended workout on Walter Jacobs’ ”Mellow Down Easy”.
Then, to the surprise of some (including self), there was an intermission which quickly made us suss that tonight was a two-set affair. Right the way through this first set the momentum built and built; surely the second set couldn’t retain the quality of the first! Initially it did, with goodies like “I Hear You Knockin’”, “Something Gonna Happen To You”, “They Call Me Lazy”, ”Bloodstains On The Wall” and a particularly commendable “Honest I Do”. Then, following a version of “Catfish Blues” by Big Joe, Lester strapped on his acoustic guitar to remind the assembled that his first major influence was country music (in common with many of his contemporaries).
In response to a request from none other than Mr. Angry, Lester delivered a top-notch version of “Blues Stop Knockin’”, a superlative version of which can be found on his 2001 album of the same name for Antoine’s. Thereafter the music veered from blues to country and, for me, much of the momentum was lost. So engrossed was Lester in the country mood, and so much was he enjoying it, that it became clear to most that Lester was reluctant to leave the stage. He finally did at about 11.45 p.m., and must have played for almost two hours all told.
Now 72, Lester is still a major player and much-travelled and respected artist in the blues world. Claiming his voice was a little hoarse tonight, it mattered not one jot to me at least; I loved the rough-edged sound. Well done Lester, Joe and the guys and well done Keith for pulling it off once again.
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