Concert Review – The Climax Blues Band and Bekah Downes

Concert Review – The Climax Blues Band/Bekah Downes – Lichfield Guildhall – December 23rd 2013

Reviewed by Ben Macnair with photos by Claire Perks

With little more than a year between this gig and their previous appearance at the Guildhall, it was no surprise that The Climax Blues Band was able to bring a show-stopping finale to a packed Guildhall to round off the Lichfield Arts 2013 season.

Support act Bekah Downes, a local favourite on the live Blues scene, gave a lively and talented account of herself. Her voice is a mix of Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, and finds the perfect foil in her own guitar playing and that of sidekick, Steve.

Lichfield Arts - Bekah Downes

Bekah performed a number of her own songs, such as ‘Breaking My Heart’, ‘Walking With Shadows’ and ‘Real Life’ whilst her Folksier side (with something of a nod to Joni Mitchell) was revealed in the final number of her set, ‘The One Who Got Away’. A couple of well chosen covers in ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Pride And Joy’ raised the temperature, as well as featuring Steve on lead vocals.

Lichfield Arts - Bekah Downes

The Climax Blues Band have built a large and loyal following, with a number of alumni who have played with household names and over thirty years have occasionally troubled the charts, as well as playing hundreds of gigs.

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With a six-man band, the sound was thick and fully rounded, with a solid backbeat. George Glover on keyboards, bassist Neil Simpson, guitarist Lester Hunt, drummer Roy Adams, saxophonist Chris ‘Bebe’ Aldridge and gravel-voiced singer, Graham Dee, all played with great aplomb.

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Their set largely consisted of Blues standards, as well as a few of their own songs. They started with two songs from the Willie Dixon songbook, in ‘Seventh Song’ and ‘Down In Louisiana’ whilst their own ‘Fool For The Bright Lights’ was able to keep up in such august company. This song featured a Hammond organ solo from George Glover.

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Lester Hunt was featured on ‘Take Me Back To Georgia’ a study in guitar technique, as well as musical subtlety, and showcasing his own vocal talents, whilst another Willie Dixon song ‘I’m Ready’ closed the first half.

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Although the material was largely from the Blues canon, many Jazz ideas were in evidence, such as tight, unison, or harmony guitar and saxophone solos, which helped to show how well honed the band’s sound and style was. Two of Willie Dixon’s most covered songs ‘Spoonful’ (made famous by Cream, and other bands) and ‘Little Red Rooster’ (which the Rolling Stones, among many others have recorded and regularly featured in live concerts) opened the second half, and gave free rein for the band to improvise.

lLichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

lLichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

A song by the group’s late founder, Colin Cooper ‘Last Chance Saloon’ was a fitting tribute to a much-missed musician. ‘What You Feel’ featured the obligatory bass and drum solos, which were well played and greatly appreciated by the audience, whilst their biggest hit to date, ‘Couldn’t Get It Right,’ a Rock song dressed in Blues dynamics, closed the second half.

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

Recalled to the stage by an enthusiastic crowd, a two song encore of ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ and their own ‘Heading Towards The Sun’ was a fine way to end the concert.

Lichfield Arts - The Climax Blues Band

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