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WEST COAST BLUES & ROOTS FESTIVAL – DAY ONE, Fremantle, 23 March 2013

| 23 April 2013 | Reply

Fremantle Park, Fremantle
Saturday 23 March 2013

By Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Maree King

WCBR Logo 2013

They call it “The music lover’s festival”, and on this – West Coast Blues & Roots Festival’s tenth birthday – it’s easy to see why, as every band (all 34 of them) over a special two day bonanza, delivers a joyous and celebratory performance of wonderful music, love and magic.

West Coast Blues & Roots Day One - Robert Plant & The Sensational Shape Shifters by Maree King 100 Percent Rock Magazine (4)

100% ROCK MAGAZINE arrived just in time to catch a killer set by Aussie legend RUSSELL MORRIS, and we shouldn’t be – but are – surprised by the depth and quality of this Aussie stalwarts set.  It’s testament to the man’s musicianship that his Sixties classic The Real Thing sits comfortably alongside the True Blue blues from his quality latest album Sharkmouth and more, all making for a wonderful, crowd pleasing set.

Over on the main stage THE TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND started slow with some mellow roadhouse blues rock before hitting their stride through Elmore James’ Rollin’ & Tumblin’, and a dynamic and soulful take on Bobby Bland’s mighty That Did It.  When it came time for Nobody’s Free, saxophonist Kebbi Williams played a mind blowing solo, inspiring the husband and wife guitarists Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi and their whole band to hit a whole nother level of cool before finishing with Bound For Glory.

THE MUSIC MAKER BLUES REVUE are a not for profit record label dedicated to keeping American roots music alive.  DR BURT kicked the show off five minutes late due to technical difficulties and even then remained unamplified until the very end of It Hurts Me Too, but it was perhaps even more authentic that way.  Burt, a 77 years young grizzled black man from Birmingham, Alabama, plays blues the old way, and this is the real shit.  This is a revue, so after three solo songs from Burt, Texan PAT WILDER takes the stage and instantly sasses things up with a slinky grind of her leopard skin-wrapped hips and a “everybody good? Oh my, my, my…”. Wilder possesses a raunchy voice full of a life well-lived and man, she can play guitar like she dances – sexy and raunchy, tearing up and down the fretboard like she’s Lady Six String herself.  I’m Proud and In The Hen House are as infectious as a plague and she got the soon-full big top dancing, clapping, hootin’ and a –hollerin’ for an all-too brief lightning strike of three songs which proved impossible to walk away from despite Chris Isaak taking the main stage.  Finishing up with There’s Something On Your Mind, Wilder proves she can put the torch to a slow-burning bluesy soul tune as well as the faster stuff, evoking sheer joy and leaving nothing but smiles and love, after she thrusts and shakes, shimmies and grinds through one incendiary solo after another. Mister “IRONING BOARD” SAM from “New Orleans via North Carolina” has been playing and recording for fifty years already: he even had a young Jimi Hendrix in his backing band in ’62!  He hit the stage in gold lamé blinged-up jumpsuit with a black leather hat and proceeded to hammer his piano Little Richard style through ‘Boogie Woogie All Night Long’.

Over on the main stage, CHRIS ISAAK peels off a few of his greatest hits (Wicked Game, Baby Done A Bad Bad Thing, Somebody’s Crying) and a selection of classic covers from his latest album Beyond The Sun including Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, Elvis’s Can’t Help Falling In Love With You, Roy Orbison’s Now Or Never and Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls Of Fire.  Playful throughout, Isaak chats amiably with the crowd and teases guitarist Hershel Yatovitz as he runs through the crowd “like a third grader”, soloing all the while, and Scott Plunkett’s piano billows smoke.  A short surfy instrumental gives Isaak time to changes from his powder blue nudie suit into a human mirrorball one, and they close a fun set out with another Orbison number – Pretty Woman.

STATUS QUO take the Big Top stage “really fucked up with jet lag” and laughing as a backing tape plays snippets of their Sixties psychedelic pop hit Pictures Of Matchstick Men.  Of course, there’s only guitarist/vocalists Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi still around from those heady days (though the famed ‘Frantic Four’ lineup including bassist Alan Lancashire and drummer John Coughlan have reunited for a recent series of gigs in the UK) but much beloved they remain, either due in part or despite of their raised profile courtesy of their “Prices are down” Coles adverts.  Delivering a raucously rocking party, the band never skip a beat as they romp through a selection of cleverly put together songs to best make use of the short set.  “We only have 50 minutes,” jokes Rossi dryly, “I think they’re worried we might die.”

The riff to Down Down kicks in to an enormous cheer and is, unsurprisingly, a million times more muscular than the Coles TV ad version.  This is Quo in all their three-chord, bar room blues glory, not a pretention (or, thankfully, a Margarita Time) in sight.  Bassist Rhino Edwards interacts with the crowd incessantly, throwing nods, winks and words out willy nilly to those close enough to hear, a smile permanently creasing his boyish dial, whilst the two old hands play it up to the max, guitars dancing in unison both musically and physically throughout every song.  After an astonishingly killer set, an encore of Don’t Waste My Time proves that it’s not about how many chords you know, it’s what you do with ‘em.

Back on the main stage JASON MRAZ proved far too soft by comparison, failing to light a spark under the 13 thousand or so punters under the sun. Two Grammies Mraz may have on his mantelpiece, but ballads like I’m Yours and I Won’t Give Up weren’t dynamic enough to make a bold impression.

FRED WESLEY & THE NEW JB’s were next up under the Big Top for a funk laden hour of horn-filled rock n’ roll.  Wesley brings all the big band style he honed as musical director and member of James Brown and George Clinton’s bands in the Seventies.  Jazzy and fresh, Wesley leads his band through a collection of standards and classics that get the whole tent dancing.

ROBERT PLANT:  Golden God, former Led Zeppelin frontman, 5 times Grammy winner and above all, restless musical alchemist.  There’s a lot of people here today naively expecting to see “Led Zep’s Greatest Hits”, but they obviously have no idea of the man’s adventurous solo career:  he’s never done that and in fact it’s only in recent years he has played songs from his Zep tenure at all.  That said, the spirit of Zeppelin beats through Plant’s set – the riffs and melodies are everywhere, injected into his solo material as much as he mixes the actual Led Zep material up playfully with African instrumentalists and never stops exploring a song’s musical possibilities, challenging himself and his audience through his own artistic filter.

Ten or more percent of the crowd wander off in the first twenty minutes – words such as “bored” and “disappointed” are used.  Some, seemingly, just don’t get the magic.  Personally Plant’s solo oeuvre is far more exciting than Led Zeppelin’s limited discography, and for the vast majority this set is all about magic and awe, transcendent from start to finish, not to mention more artistically gratifying and exciting for the artist himself than any ‘greatest hits’ tour could be.

Spoonful is anarchic old blues, Hendrix madness, touched by the spirit of Zeppelin and full of unexpectedly trippy beats, not to mention a world music edge to this most covered and coveted song.  Black Dog is Led Zep, baby, but not as we know it – Plant cuts it up with a plethora of African instruments into an exalted and enthralling trip.  This isn’t what some people wanted – but for those of us who adore the man’s adventurous musical spirit, it is manna from the gods.  Going To California puts Plant and acoustic guitar centre stage to great contrast and effect, his leonine mane framing his craggy, well lived and still handsome features.  Massive Attack-ish keyboards herald The Enchanter and Plant introduces Four Sticks as being “from way back when people used to dream in colour”.

“It’s not hard really, we’re just fucking around, mixing it up a little…” he laughs, and therein lies more truth than you might imagine.  The Sensational Shape Shifters is the band’s name and that very name gives Plant the licence to mix it up as much as he bloody well wants.  Whole Lotta Love’s riff evokes sheer obsessive madness not seen this side of the Roman Empire, and a sideways slide into Who Do You Love was brilliantly, tribally executed, despite the African musicians not making an appearance (odd, since if ever there was a song they could have done justice to…)

As the band re-took the stage for the encore Plant, intriguingly, said “Well, for me, it was either this or archaeology… and this probably IS archaeology, actually…”  The man’s voice remains bloody stunning for a mid-60’s fella – sure he doesn’t hit the high notes quite like he did but why the hell should he?!  He’s also as lithe and serpentine as anyone four decades younger.  The Sensational Shape Shifters play Rock n’ Roll and with a “That’s it”, they take a group bow and finally collective jaws can be picked up from the floor.  Amazing.

KITTY, DAISY & LEWIS deliver an irrepressible set of rootsy rockabilly under the Big Top, sharing a telepathy that only true siblings can be born with.  Multi instrumentalists one and all, Lewis sticks mostly to guitar whilst younger sister Kitty drums and Daisy sings and handles percussion.  Sandwiched in between the classic rock-meets world music pomp of Robert Plant and the garage punk mayhem of Iggy’s Stooges, the Durham brother and sisters provide welcome respite for those wanting something more traditional and less distorted.

Reptilian zombie skinned IGGY POP, topless and full of beans, bounces onstage in front of the latest incarnation of THE STOOGES and proceeds to destroy all we know about rock n’ roll and rebuild it again in front of our eyes, just as they did in the late Sixties.  Raw Power is as priapic and dangerous as a 1969 speedball-fuelled night on the Sunset Strip, and Gimme Danger proves that was no fluke: The Stooges are back and magnificent in their chaotic glory.

“We’ve got a new fucking album – here’s two songs from it!” Iggy declares, and Burn (Baby) and If I Had A Fucking Gun both sound like classic Stooges despite a slightly muddy mix.  Pop introduces the latter wildly: “Playing new shit is harder than playing old shit. I’m gonna sing a song about if I had a gun. Do you want me to have a gun?  FUCK NO!”  Search & Destroy throbs with all the visceral, junkie danger it always did, and even though the “street walkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm” delivering it is old enough the be Grandpa to half the crowd, the song remains a fucking beast of a thing.

Iggy opens the stage up for the crowd to invade (with his permission) during Funhouse – but it seems his minder didn’t get that memo.  As fans pour onstage, the brute headlocks and roughs out several men and women, seemingly without prejudice, who get what he thinks is too close to his charge.  Even from 25 meters away it’s excessively brutal and in total contrast to the vibe Pop is trying to create.

Cock In My Pocket is still as anarchic as back in their drug drenched heyday, and through the seminal I Wanna Be Your Dog and No Fun it’s easy to see why, their surliness aside, these nether-punks have made such a profound influence on modern music and even society.

A five song encore gives late stayers a treat – with guitarist James Williamson on board they play a magnificent The Passenger (though calls for Lust For Life were ignored), Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell and I Got A Right, all full of vitriol and mayhem, spit & venom.  The Stooges are rock solid even forty-something years later, and Pop is still a bewildering madman, writhing, pouting and contorting like a hyperactive attention-seeking child from start to finish, and Open Up & Bleed ends a magnificent day of glorious music on a high note.

Set List: STATUS QUO

Caroline
Something Bout You Baby I Like
Paper Plane / Hold You Back
Rain
Rock n’ Roll You
Medley – What You’re Proposing / Down The Dustpipe / Wild Side Of Life / Railroad/ Again And Again / Big Fat Mama
Roll Over Lay Down
Down Down
Whatever You Want
Rockin’ All Over The World
Encore:
Don’t Waste My Time

Set List: ROBERT PLANT & THE SENSATIONAL SHAPE SHIFTERS

Heartbreaker
Tin Pan Alley
Another Tribe
Friends
Spoonful
Black Dog
Going To California
The Enchanter
Four Sticks
Fixin’ To Die
Ramble On
Bron Y’Aur Stomp
Whole Lotta Love / Who Do You Love

Bron Y’Aur Stomp
Rock n’ Roll

Set List: IGGY & THE STOOGES

Raw Power
Gimme Danger
Burn (Baby) – new song
If I Had A Fucking Gun – new song
I Feel Alright
Search & Destroy
Funhouse
Beyond The Law
Johanna
Kill City
Cock In My Pocket
I Wanna Be Your Dog
No Fun

Encore:
Penetration
The Passenger
Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
I Got A Right
Open Up And Bleed

Shane

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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