Concert Review – The Proof

The Proof – Concert Review – 2nd February 2014

Reviewer Ben Macnair with photography by Phil Beale

The Proof, a musically accomplished and critically well-regarded veteran quintet played to an enthusiastic audience of Blues and Rock fans when they performed for Lichfield Arts at the Guildhall.

The Proof

Led by singer Paul Cox, the group played an action packed two hours of Blues, Funk, and Rock. With a tight rhythm section of drummer Pete Stroud and bassist Nigel Hardy, colourful virtuoso guitar from Mike Summerfield and bound together by keyboard player / songwriter Roger Cotton, they offered something for everyone.

Testing a voice with shades of Paul Rogers, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart, Cox led the group through a number of self-penned songs, and covers of Etta James, Freddie King and Free’s Andy Fraser.

Show opener – Roger Cotton’s own ‘A Big Change Is Gonna Come’ – was a wise choice, allowing for some fine ensemble playing, whilst a Jazz/Latin tinge was given to the Blues standard ‘Don’t You Lie To Me (I Get Evil)’.

A Funk treatment was awarded to some of their songs such as ‘Heart Of Stone’, and the feel-good ‘Walking On Sunset’. After a full-throated rendition of Etta James’s ‘Damn Your Eyes’, the band segued into an instrumental coda full of drama, well-controlled internal dynamics and some fine guitar from Mike Summerfield. Mike’s flawless playing exhibits lessons from the spacious dynamics of Peter Green, and the feral intensity of Jeff Beck.

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The Proof closed the first half with the well-trodden Freddie King’s Blues classic ‘Tore Down’ and a Rocked-up version of ‘Dangerous Man’.

The second half featured a wider range of material and a slower pace. ‘That’s The Way I Feel’ is a slow-paced Rocker and Andy Fraser’s ‘Be Good To Yourself’ a song of fine melodic inventiveness. Both were delivered with The Proof’s trademark panache.

The Country ballad ‘This Love Of Mine’ featured a lot more than three chords and gave chance for the band to show their full talents. ‘I Got The Proof’ was a minor-key slow Blues vamp, powered by some agile slide guitar. A slow reading of Freddie King’s ‘Same old Blues’ was a late set highlight, whilst the links between Blues and Gospel were explored in ‘Feel So Bad’. The Proof closed the gig with a reading of Bobby Bland’s ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ giving the audience an opportunity to join in.

An encore of Soul classic ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ was a fitting way to end the concert, and final proof(!) of the tight showmanship of this sublime band.

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