Borough Halls, Greenwich

Greenwich was my seventh JM gig, spanning fifteen years, and in all the hours of music of those previous six shows I’ve seen John play just three acoustic tracks. So this tour, tripping us back to “mushroom days”, was more than eagerly awaited. Last summer I took a friend whose tastes were more inclined to Stereolab and Sonic Youth, and he observed that there were just enough signs of a guy who could really play guitar. Of course, numerous features on this site and elsewhere have noted how John has looked to concentrate on his vocals. What thrilled me so much about this evening was that the balance moved back towards his playing.

In many ways I felt, as on the last two tours, that John warmed up through the evening, and that at the end he was truly hot. The “twiddling” he refers to on the Kendal album (and if you haven’t caught him yet, the set was extremely reflective of both the new Sunshine Boys releases from Voiceprint) was fascinating on “Beverley” which he segued with “Make No Mistake”, but astounding later on “Outside In” which merged with “Dealer” – a definite highlight. I suspect that for a lot of us it’s the instrumental work on these two classics, and also on “Small Hours” and on “Call Me Crazy”, that defines why John is so special. And the merging of these classics, such as “Small Hours” blending into “One World” (though not this time, unfortunately) is another way in which John re-invents his work. Another sequence of “warming up” could be said to have started with “Spencer the Rover” and ran through “May You Never” to the climax, an encore of “The Easy Blues”. I don’t think the boys could have ended any better, and John’s fingers were tearing around the fretboard as they must have done before the “One World” album. This was proof indeed that he can still do it; I wasn’t sure I’d ever see it and I’m delighted to have done so. Had “One World” and “Go Down Easy” found places on the set-list the night would have nudged perfection. And then there was Danny. There was less banter than I’d expected and a memorable comic turn with “Blue Monk”, but through the evening we saw why of all John’s collaborations, this is and has been the finest. The guys are telepathic. ‘Nuff said.

Martin Futters