British Blues – Events – Gigs – Marcia Ball

Marcia Ball at the Jazz Cafe, London, 23rd July 2002

Marcia Ball at the Jazz Café, the news of which took everyone by surprise. Very much unknown in the UK or indeed Europe generally, we assumed, wrongly, that this was her first trip to our shores. We were corrected by long-time ‘Tales From The Woods’ contributor/subscriber John Howard who advised us in no uncertain terms that the lady has been here once before, back in the Eighties, for a couple of low-key, small venue gigs.   

There was a very respectable turnout on this humid evening in Camden Town for the Gal from Louisiana who I have seen a number of times in the States, both at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and in that funky little venue Jimmy’s, again in the ole Big Easy. On one memorable occasion at Jimmy’s, she hit the bandstand at 1:00am and didn’t leave it until almost 5:00am. Were we shattered the following day? You bet! She wore us out.  

Opening up with ‘I Don’t Want No Man’ she hit sound gremlins straight away – the piano was lost in the mix. She was backed up by her own band of lead guitar/bass, drums and sax and, of course, Marcia herself on piano and vocals. After sorting out the sound for a moment or two, it all came together with the second number, ‘Red Beans Cookin’, which instantly transported yours truly back to ole Louisiana. Marcia performed two sets; the first of which I felt was a little stiff as though Marcia was unsure of both the venue and her audience. Can’t blame her for that. I have been going to the Jazz Café for years and I am bloody unsure about it myself.   

The second set really came together with everything we have come to expect from a Marcia Ball show – tight, very professional musicianship between the lady and the band, stunning piano playing, high energy showmanship, workouts aplenty on ‘Fingernails’ and ‘Hey Big Shot’, blues drenched vocals on ‘St Gabriel’, funky New Orleans feeling on ‘Louella’ and ‘Lay De Dah’ along with Louisiana favourites like ‘Cajun Man’ and some great rocking double entendres with ‘Play With Your Fiddle’. I get the impression that Marcia gained confidence as the evening progressed, little doubt though that the audience were very much on her side from the word go. Great show Marcia, you’ve broken the ice, when are you coming back?


Keith Woods


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