Wilko Johnson - The Caves, Edinburgh, Thu 15 Sep 2011 (4 stars)

This article is from 2011.

Wilko Johnson The Caves, Edinburgh, Thu 15 Sep

Photography | David Coombes

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.

Wilko Johnson

The redoubtable Dr Feelgood guitarist and band rock it up Canvey Island-style; after undergoing radical surgery to treat his hitherto-believed-to-be terminal cancer, the indomitable Johnson is back, minus one pancreas but with added vim and vigour.

Cheltenham Town Hall

Sat 27 Apr

£35 / 0844 576 2210

Fibbers, York

Sat 13 Apr

£30.25 / 01904 651250

Princess Alexandra Auditorium, Yarm

Thu 11 Apr

£33 / 01642 786023

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