John Lee Hooker said, ‘Don’t Look Back’ but sometimes it is worthwhile reflecting on the past. That is what Joe Camilleri did last night at The Spiegeltent in the first of a three-part retrospective of his career when he shared his own personal jukebox with a capacity crowd.
In fact, the highlight of the evening was the version of that Hooker classic with Joe’s vocals reminiscent of Van Morrison’s version with Them. This where everything came together: Joe’s sax playing, the guitars of Jeff Burstin and Wayne Burt, the bass of Joe Creighton and the rock solid drumming of Gary Young.
The band nailed the song and added a little bit of themselves to it. Otherwise, most of the evening was given over to superior covers of a host of great songs that have influenced Camilleri’s own music. The evening kicked off with Arthur Alexander’s ‘You Better Move On’ after which Joe confessed to being nervous and glad to get the song out of the way. One would have never known. We could hear the band rehearsing the song during soundcheck as we klined up outside and it sounded so good even in its tentative form that I wondered then why they would need to even rehearse!
There was a great version of Ray Charles’ ‘I Believe To My Soul’ (Joe dislikes his recording of this with The Falcons), Doc Pomus’ ‘Lonely Avenue,’ Otis Redding’s ‘These Arms Of Mine,’ John DF Loudermilk’s ‘Tobacco Road’ (a la the Nashville Teens rather than Eric Burdon).
But the elephant in the room was really the Rolling Stones and one could be forgiven for thinking that the whole evening was a tribute to that band. Early on we heard Slim Harpo’s ‘Hip Shake,’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘Carol.’ Later, we heard ‘Route 66’ and Bo Diddley’s ‘Mona.’
Of the final half dozen songs, four were fro the Stones catalogue: ‘It’s All Over Now,’ a great version of ‘Little Queenie,’ (with Burstin and Burt riffing off each other), an encore of ‘Love In Vain’ and yet another Chuck Berry classic in ‘Down The Road A Piece.’
We were not only reminded of the influence the Stones had on us all in terms of opening our ears to blues musicians but also of the band’s once excellent taste in choosing covers. It is also apparent that if Charlie Watts ever decides to throw in the towel, Gary Young is a ready made replacement.’
‘The Honeydripper’ a preview of next week’s show when Camilleri wil be joined by members of the Falcons and reminded us Camilleri has usually chosen some pretty fine material to cover as well.
Throughout the evening Wayne Burt feigned indifference but it was great to see him back on stage. By the end Camilleri joked that he needed to get out of the tight-fitting shirt that he had chosen and that we should all go home. Which we duly did, after hanging around a while to talk about how good the band was.
The finale was a ripping version of Hooker’s ‘Dimples,’ which closed off an hour and half that conjured up the ghosts of Camilleri’s youth. I can hardly wait for next week.
As the saying goes, I reckon it’s alright to look back – as long as you don’t stare!