BLUESFEST HIGHLIGHTS – MONDAY MARCH 28, 2016
By Kerrie Hickin.
Taj Mahal – A true legend, and a living link to the ‘old’ folk blues style, his lilting playing skipping over tunes that seem to have always been there in our collective musical consciousness.
Playing For Change – An international lineup, with the focus constantly shifting among band members, vocalists and musicians in the spotlight, styles changing song to song taking in the breadth of music. They broach a number of pertinent covers including Stevie Wonder’s rousing ‘Higher Ground,’ and a reference to Depeche Mode’s ‘People Are People,’ re-appropriated and reframed to highlight the theme of working together for a positive outcome.
Brian Wilson – This is a difficult act to review, as on one hand you have the man on stage, the man who wrote and brought to wonderful creation so many truly epic and era-defining songs, a man who has survived who-knows-what challenges and who we are extremely privileged to be in the presence of. On the other hand, the massive elephant in the room is that Brian Wilson himself is the weakest link of the actual performance. The timeless songs, under Darian Sahanaja’s loving nurturing, sound as sparking as they ever did. And certainly the very welcome presence of original Beach Boy Al Jardine adds to the gravity of the event and pushes it even further into the ‘special’ category. However, the lady next to me, who is old enough to have been an original fan, buries her head in her hands and moans, “He’s lost it”, when Brian’s voice cracks as he attempts the pensive vocals of ‘Caroline, No,’ and there are titterings echoing around the crowd. I really want to love it. I honestly really do, and I think we all do, including those on stage who one would expect are the best of the best. But having seen Wilson perform a number of times since his resurgence, unfortunately it is becoming increasingly hard to do so un-blinkered. We’ll miss him dearly when he’s gone, and have learned so much from him and his particular genius along the way, but maybe it’s time to hang up the touring shoes before it becomes the Weekend At Bernie’s show.
Tom Jones – He’s thankfully left the cheesy Vegas vibe long behind and has grown into his elder statesman role with dignity, though without losing the knowing twinkle in his eye. His last few albums have focussed on a return to the roots-based music that would have influenced him as a young man, particularly gospel and faith-based music, and the intersection of that with rhythm and blues. And rather than a ‘greatest hits’ show (though they were certainly there), we were treated to a set that celebrated his particular delivery of this genre, interpreting artists such as Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch and Sister Rosetta Tharpe with his million-dollar voice. The trademark hip-wiggle may be more of a suggestion these days, but there was an audible collective sigh when he playfully mimed undoing a few buttons. There are a few seventy-plus-year-olds who can elicit that sort of reaction, but not many.