Wilko Johnson - The Caves, Edinburgh, Thu 15 Sep 2011
- Miles Fielder
- 22 September 2011
A winner set from the ex Blockheads guitarist turned bluesman
Canvey Island rocking bluesman Wilko Johnson kicked off his nationwide tour from the other end of the UK with a stonking set that compared favourably to the Essex man’s glory days as lead guitarist for Dr Feelgood in the 1970s and Ian Dury and the Blockheads in the 1980s. Although The Wilko Johnson Band has been active in the years since the Blockheads split, its charismatic and eccentric frontman has been thrust into the public eye recently through his appearances in Oil City Confidential, Julian Temple’s excellent rockumentary about the Thames delta blues band Dr Feelgood (the Milk and Alcohol outfit who influenced punk acts such as The Clash), and in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Aside from his mop-top being replaced with a skinhead, time hasn’t changed Johnson. His marvellous idiosyncrasies are present and correct: the choppy, pluck-less playing style that enables him to switch between lead and rhythm guitar while wielding his instrument like a machine gun and gliding back and forth across the stage sporting his trademark mad-eyed stare. The set flits between Feelgood classics (‘She Does it Right’, ‘Back in the Night’), new songs and some extended blues workouts. The early stuff keeps just on the right side of pub rock and punk blues, while the impressive playing on the workouts is a touch noodly. But the set’s a winner. Former Blockhead Norman Watt-Roy gives his bass guitar a right seeing to, drummer Dylan Howe never lets up and Johnson, whose revelatory vocal style appears to owe much to the late boss of the Blockheads, sounds like he’s playing three guitars at once.