Review by Pete Sargeant
Photos by Noel Buckley
A real trip back in the musical time machine, this. Thirty years after
they went their separate ways in the early Seventies, Newcastle blues
shouter Eric Burdon and atmospheric soundweavers War reconvened and in
many ways, it was as if the last few decades hadn't happened. The band –
or what you should really term the current touring version of War, led as
ever by smiling keyboard dude Lonnie Jordan – had the look of road haulage
operatives meeting up at a favoured border cantina. That this was well
thought-out evening was underlined by a splendid starter of War hits.
(above) Lonnie Jordan and Eric Burdon
Kicking off with guitar man Start Ziff's moody wah-wah'd arpeggio of
'World is a Ghetto' this wonderful crew soon had feet tapping and heads
swaying, largely due to the drums and percussion pairing of Salvador
Rodriguez and Marcos Reyes. Often driving but at other times gently
tinkling and tapping, these two make every player on the stage sound
Francisco Tomaselli's meaty bass pretty much evoked the B B Dickerson
original lines powering 'Cisco Kid' and the perennial mover 'Low Rider',
cheeky stop/start cowbell intro et al. This number prompted an
enthusiastic audience member in Row D just in front of us to leap to his
feat and throw out frug-style dance moves, much to the delight of other
punters and earning him a brief bounce onto the stage with an amused band
making the most of the moment.
Notwithstanding Fernando Harkless' sublime sax and flute forays and the
hard-driven harp riffs of Mitch Kashmar, the most distinctive trademark of
War is when these two combine as on 'Spill the Wine'. This collection plus
a good natured 'Why Can't We Be Friends' and you could hardly fault the
start of this show, good sound balance too and nice conducting from
Burdon's approach to the show was to put his head in Fillmore mode and
freewheel. He sang, he pleaded, he growled and he reminisced. Whether you
like his voice or not, this singer and band are as complementary as Neil
Young and Crazy Horse or the terrific linking of Dylan and Tom Petty's
crew. Much of what Eric produced here was deep blues with soul seasoning.
Stepping on the stage to a roaring welcome during the cool latin tread of
'Spill The Wine', Burdon did his thing and encouraged the band to groove
and solo. Yes, a throwback show I suppose but such a contrast to more
recent 'I'm the star and you remember your place' antics of Simply Red and
the like. The version of 'Spirit' was worth the trip alone, a quite
brilliant rendition. The Roland Kirk tribute was almost spat out, in a
confusion of tone colours. 'Tobacco Road' as it always did, almost
disappeared up its own fundament.
Burdon remembered watching Memphis Slim in a Paris bar when Eric was 17as
he sauntered into 'Mother Earth' ( probably the same effect that seeing
Howlin' Wolf had on me at the same age...) and on this song the band
solo'd with the ESP of veteran players, none more so than Ziff who when he
wants to sounds uncannily like the late Mike Bloomfield – I suspect he
purloined the Butterfield axeman's DNA, to sound this close.
A boogie intro to 'Bare Back Ride' moved the crowd whilst 'Paint it Black'
went onto its own universe and back again. Some of the audience were
surprised to find the acoustic guitar scrubbing morph into an edgily paced
'House Of the Rising Sun', Burdon reclaimed the song from a thousand bar
bands with ease.
For this writer, it is the way that the players in War know when to play
and when to hold back that made this celebration show special and maybe
only the optimum lineup of Little Feat could presenty a show quite this
way. Nothing to prove, y'see
Review © 2008 Pete Sargeant
Photos ©2008 Noel Buckley/GRTR!
All rights reserved.
Eric Burdon interview
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