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LIVE: TAJ MAHAL – Perth, 3 April, 2016

| 8 April 2016 | Reply

LIVE: TAJ MAHAL – Perth, 3 April, 2016
The Astor Theatre, Perth, Western Australia – Sunday, 3 April, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Taj Mahal - Australia 2016

He’s getting on a bit now, Taj Mahal, but the man who slowly shuffles on and off stage tonight is a very different cat to the one who sits there surrounded by guitars and a keyboard, delivering awe-inspiring legendary blues, grand master style.

With cowboy hat pulled low, Taj tells stories about his poor upbringing. About how the tobacco farmers would have money to spend at harvest time, so he’d be in town ready to play them a ‘John Henry song’, a favourite subject of the time. His take on the man tonight is stunning in its simplicity, yet redolent with depth.

The fully seated audience remains respectful and transfixed throughout, Taj mesmerising as much with what he doesn’t play as with what he does, making sure we all know that he’s not as frail as he may seem: his mind is still sharp as a tack, his fingers still nimble. He teases us as he reads the crowd, knowing which way to turn for greatest effect, quick with a one-liner. His decades of playing live show in his easy manner, casual grace and who knew he was such a funny dude!

Taj’s take on Bob Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry is transformative, while The Calypsonians blends Jamaican-African rhythms with the blues, while he conducts us – the ladies on one side, “the blokes” on the other – like a blues choir.

So laid back he’s almost horizontal, he delivers a wonderful Gone Fishin’ Blues and Corrina, acts the ‘bad man’ for Stagger Lee, playing up to his legend, cracks out a ukulele for New Hula Blues, a song about living on Hawaii without much mobile phone reception, and thrills with his classic Queen Bee.

Wandering gingerly over to his keyboard setup Taj chats away to himself, giving the impression of an old man on the brink… until he plays This Mean Ole World. This is a man who knows the score, entertaining with a story about how he “never learnt to play keys proper.” Sounds like he picked it up just fine.

Back on the guitars a woman calls out for Queen Bee again. “That’s once a night,” he wheezes, then launches into a fascinating story about supplying some music for a documentary about how the bees are being decimated by modern agriculture and society.

Taj plays a haunting steel guitar for I Got The Blues So Bad, and as he shuffles off to a standing ovation not a soul present would deny how lucky they were to have been in the presence of such greatness.

Category: Live Reviews

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