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JIMMIE VAUGHAN Shepherds Bush Empire, London
3 June 2010

With living blues legend Jimmy Vaughan at the Shepherds Bush Empire armed with his first album for 9 years, this was surely a marriage made in heaven.

Well not quite. For while this show did eventually spark enough to offer glimpses of the connection between the past and present, Jimmy's audience initially seemed be too much in awe of the history and not fired up enough by the present.

Certainly tonight's guest Ian Parker in duo format must have felt the quiet audience response to several of his heartfelt songs, which including a brand new corker called 'Lost'. He finished with a flourish on electric guitar but to muted applause. He deserved better.

Jimmy and his full tour band seemed equally in the moment, methodically building up their set dynamic with occasional moments of inspirational playing triumphing over the reverential atmosphere.

Of course you need to buy in to the sense of romance and imagination of an era whose pop songs are today's blues roots. And to that end Jimmy filled the breach as a catalyst. Immediately after a stirring 'We're Gonna Roll', Jimmy half turned to his crowd and apprehensively shouted 'you're so quiet its freaking me out'.

But in truth Jimmy has never been the master of the grand gesture especially when he lets his guitar doing the talking for him. He is far happier as tonight on semi extended knee in quasi crouch position firing off some incisive clean notes, confident in the knowledge that his redoubtable drummer George Raines and an equally formidable born section will be pushing the groove and plugging the gaps respectively.

The band admirably anchored some choogling rhythms and helped Jimmy reactivate some great blues, ballads and rock & roll music from the fifties.

And yes damn it all, he is a living link between the past and present, but tonight you just wish his audience would wake up to the present.

But no matter, because Jimmy doesn't just look cool - top to toe in black a la Johnny Cash - but leads by example, playing both crucial rhythm and biting lead on Boom-Bapa-Boom'.

And as if symbolic of the moment when the evening turned for the better, he temporarily threw away the set list to respond to an audience request for Johnny Guitar Watson's 'Motorhead Baby'.

Jimmy showed real use of tone, economy of effort and dexterity on the impressive 'The Pleasure's All Mind' and the more obvious 'Just A Little Bit'. We were in the presence of an eloquent player who never wasted a note when a short incisive burst of staccato notes could communicate so much.

'And now star time', announced Jimmy perfunctorily and out stepped vocalist Lou Ann Barton and she didn't disappoint. Much like Jimmy she let her talent do the talking.

Her lithe but static upright posture was in stark contrast to Jimmy's crabby stage movements, but once she soared on the big ballad 'Wheel of Fortune', and leaned into a swinging version of Lazy Lester's 'Sugar Coated Love' before a perfect duet with Jimmy on 'Come Love', she had little left to prove.

The initial soporific atmosphere had imperceptible slipped away and the crowd became almost animated on the inevitable cover of SRV's 'Texas Flood'.

Only Jimmy's startled look at the end of a regular set, when he realised his band had left the stage without him, was out of keeping with an evening that pleasantly reaffirmed the merits of a living legend, albeit in an elegant understated way

Review by Pete Feenstra

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