Mike Sanchez – at the 100 Club, London, 3rd May 2003
Mike Sanchez is truly unique. He and his band play rhythm and blues and Rock’n’Roll and do so with a level of performance and authenticity unrivalled in the domestic blues scene today. He is an entertainer, a showman, yes, but one who understands, feels and believes in the music he plays. I seem to sense this and that is why I have yet to leave a Sanchez show disappointed. To the dismay of many he left the Big Town Playboys in 1999 to go it alone but has since succeeded in achieving widespread popularity in Europe, both with his own band and in holding down the pianist’s chair with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.
Mike plays the 100 Club four times a year at the moment and his band is loaded with quality players; Andy Sylvester on guitar, Al Nicholls (a fine tenor man) among the horn section, Dave Priseman on trumpet, Al Gare on upright bass and Mark Morgan on drums.
I caught only the first set tonight which began with the invitation to ‘Have A Party’, followed swiftly by the long-time Playboys favourite ‘Girls All Over The World’. A fine version of Brook Benton’s ‘Hurtin’ Inside’ followed and then a slow, brief Charles Brown-like blues preceded an incendiary take on Jack Clements’ ‘It’ll Be Me’ with Sanchez perfectly replicating the Killer’s licks; how the hell does he do it? More Brook Benton followed with ‘Kiddio’, which saw Andy Sylvester prove yet again with his solo that he is one of our premier blues guitarists, outstanding both in rhythm vamping and in soloing.
Following John Fred’s ‘Shirley’ Mike called up a special guest in the delectable form of Imelda Clabby, the only female singer bold enough to take on the work of Wynona Carr (a long-time favourite singer of mine) and be utterly convincing; her version of ‘Act Right’ was absolutely spot on (how I’d love to hear her sing ‘Please Mr Jailer’). Also well performed were Lavern Baker’s ‘Voodoo Voodoo’ and, again from the Wynona Carr song book, ‘Til The Well Runs Dry’. A fine talent indeed.
Next, Mike strapped on his axe to deliver a series of songs, some of which highlighted his guitar-playing abilities which, especially in the case of ‘Well Baby’ and ‘I Miss You So’, turned out to be pretty considerable. Also, Jim Reeves’ ‘Blue Boy’ was featured to great effect. The first set, and my account of it, concludes with ‘Down The Road Apiece’ featuring Al Gare, bassman extraordinaire, who many will recognise from his appearances with the Rhythm Riot’s Kings of Rhythm.
Doctor Dale who, along with Dart, the two Daves (Carroll and Woodard), Brian J and Darren were at last night’s show; the good doctor, not normally the most accommodating towards British acts, first saw Mike at the Rhythm Riot last year and felt, as many ‘Tales From The Woods’ people did, that Mike was the hit of the festival. Praise enough. But Mike Sanchez is simply a must-see artist; more than anyone else he captures the fun, the feel, the excitement of rockin’ rhythm and blues. Were he to appear at Hemsby then god help he, her or they who have to follow him on stage.
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