Thursday, November 24, 2016

An Evening of Blues with The Simon Kennedy Band & Lins Honeyman & Band

The Souter Theatre in Perth's AK Bell Library played host to a blues extravaganza on Saturday night, courtesy of two local bands, The Simon Kennedy Band, and Lins Honeyman & Band. As Blues Bands go, they couldn't be more different, but between them they put on a fine evening's entertainment.

Lins Honeyman's band got things underway with a set of predominantly acoustic blues  (they have an electric guitar on several songs), featuring a mixture of Blues, Rock n Roll classics, and Honeyman's own compositions. Honeyman is a well known figure in the Perth music scene, having been gigging for many years in the company of an evolving line up of musicians. The current band: Honeyman: vox, guitars, harmonica, mandolin; Andrew McCully: lead guitar, double bass; Les Dalziel: keys, double bass, electric bass; Jon Assheton: drums, percussion, cahon, and Peter Oates: violin; has remained largely unchanged for a while now (Oates being the sole recent addition). Over time they have increasingly gelled as a unit and were on good form on Saturday night, presenting the bluesy-est set list they have performed in a while. Having heard this band range across a whole range of musical styles, I have always rated their blues-based performances as the pick of their output. Whether that is a fair assessment of their work, or simply a reflection of the fact that I love the blues, is hard to objectively judge!

Lins did a solo spot mid-show, which was well-received, and included a Shakespeare-inspired audience-participation singalong. It sounds improbable, but it worked! Other highlights included a bit of Blind Willie Johnson, some Chuck Berry, and a cheeky bit of blues comedy in the form of Keep Talkin', a humorous blues with a lyric that would bring a knowing smile to the likes of Champion Jack Dupree, who was apparently similarly afflicted! Two Feet Mama is another slightly tongue in cheek blues song which Lins wrote when he was quite young, but which has made a recent return to his live performances; alongside an idiosyncratic take on a certain Jungle Book number at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum to the soul searching song 'Sertraline'. The first half finale from Lins and Co, was 'Stranger Blues', which has been part of their set for some years. It has sometimes featured Les Dalziel and Lins himself, on Hammond organ solos, but with Les occupied on double-bass duties, and Lins wielding the harmonica, they were joined onstage by Mirek Hodun from the Simon Kennedy Band, who added a unique flourish to proceedings. Yesterday night, I was at one of my kids school parent's evening. One of the teachers, who had also been at the gig said to me, "I just love Lins' band... they just get better and better!"
As they combined solid musicianship, with a unique and eclectic set-list, delivered with Honeyman's trademark wit and whimsy, in a rootsy acoustic blues package, it's hard to disagree with his assessment.

After the interval, Simon Kennedy led his band onto the stage. Once a four piece band, the new SKB lineup features the eye-wateringly good drummer Brian Macleod and keyboard maestro Mirek Hodun,
who's left hand has replaced the bassist! While the first half featured lots of chat, humour, and acoustic vibes; the SKB were a complete contrast; from the outset they were full of highly charged, very loud, high-energy, funky electric blues. Led by Simon Kennedy's technically stunning, melodic guitar lines, trading licks with Mirek's very funky Hammond, built upon the foundation of Macleod's scintillating grooves; they kicked off with a Freddy King instrumental which set the tone for the second half of the evening brilliantly. Mixing blues covers, like Cannonball, and the El Media Stomp with Kennedy's own writing they showed why they are a real force to be reckoned with in the contemporary blues scene; and why they have gained national radio airplay.

Kennedy's own writing is mostly up-beat, intense, and earnest; but his lyrics are uncommonly thought-provoking and profound. If you are a fan of the the endless cliche's which fill the charts, then Kennedy's lyrics are not for you. His songs, do not feature any of the usual hackneyed phrases which rhyme such banalities as "sitting at home" with "all alone" and "waiting for the phone". Rather, he probes the human condition, and its' many sided complexities - drawing deeply on his Christian faith for answers to the many questions he airs. All this in upbeat driving, funky blues on tracks such as "Show them it's True".

The SKB then delivered a staggering version of the soul song, "The Letter", popularised (though not written by) Joe Cocker. Beginning with an eerie guitar introduction which weaved a chunk of "Stairway" into it, the band later morphed into a blast of 'Smoke On The Water"! In between that they belted out a stonking version of the song itself interspersed with an amazingly entertaining drum solo from Macleod, and a organ-solo, singalong from Hodun.

The night came to a glorious conclusion when all the musicians crowded onto the small stage for a big blues jam, under Kennedy's direction. Everyone who had taken part (with the exception of Jon Assheton - as there were two drummers, but only one kit!) traded solos and brought the evening to a rip roaring conclusion. 

I had the privilege of being asked to take some photos of the gig, which was hugely enjoyable. One day I'll own a professional standard camera which can operate at high ISOs without producing this much 'noise'.

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