Review and photos by Rich Ward
By the time I get to the Robin, Redditch-based trio Sugar Mama have already hit the stage. Delivered with power and confidence, their traditional blues rock bears some country elements and features nice slidework that hints at some Stones influence and serves as a fine support to tonight’s headliner.
Seventeen years since his passing, tonight’s show was billed as ‘A celebration of the music of Rory Gallagher’. As such, it may have been easy to dismiss this as just a tribute band. That, however, would have been doing an injustice to the talent on stage tonight. Gerry McAvoy was a member of Rory’s band from day one and played bass on all of his albums; joining on drums was journeyman Ted McKenna, who between stints with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Michael Schenker was also a member of Rory’s band playing on Photo Finish, Top Priority, and the stunning Stage Struck albums. Completing the trio, and filling Rory’s shoes is Marcel Scherpenzeel.
From the opening moments of ‘Last Of The Independents’ it’s clear that McAvoy serves at the frontman, recounting stories and encouraging crowd participation throughout. Marcel has Rory’s tone down to a tee and handles the vocals admirably. He even looks the part with checked shirt and playing a distressed Rory strat. ‘Continental Op’ is tight and choppy, while ‘Moonchild’ proves to be an early personal highlight. ‘A Million Miles Away’ is simply spellbinding. It’s difficult to see who in the band is enjoying themselves the most, but one thing is for sure, is that it’s infectious. Local man Gwyn Ashton made an appearance jamming on a couple of tracks including the timeless ‘Tattoo’d Lady’. Simply magnificent, and yet this is still surpassed with another one of Rory’s finest in the form of ‘Shadowplay’.
The encore rounded off the night with a seemingly never ending Bullfrog Blues, which saw Ashton come back to the stage to join in and conclude an evening of excellent music from a passionate band who were just as keen to play as the audience was to listen. Tonight was a fitting tribute to the Ballyshannon Blues Man and a wonderful opportunity to relive those songs again. Hot, sweaty and suitably sated, leaving the venue those seventeen years didn’t seem that far away. If you missed it, Gerry returns to the Midlands next year with gigs in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester in March and April. Check him out.
In the meantime, you can see more of Rich’s shots from the show here: