Review & photos by Rich Ward
The Robin has played host to its’ fair share of blues legends over the years and tonight is no exception. The club is not a sell out, but not far from it, to witness 70’s Texan blues icon Johnny Winter.
Following a lengthy instrumental introduction from his backing band, Johnny shuffles on to the front of the stage, frail and clearly not in the best of health. You have to applaud his dogged stubbornness to slow things down. A glance at his schedule shows more than 50 more dates planned up to the end of the summer taking in most of Europe, The States and Brazil. After a run through of ‘Johnny B Goode’ he sits down and remains there for much of the main set. Guitarist Paul Nelson has helped Winter considerably over recent years, from both a musical and managerial aspect, and is arguably the reason why Johnny is still around and doing shows today. His presence on stage is essential in filling out the guitar parts.
Despite the quality of the musicians, there is actually very little to get excited about. Running through blues and rock ‘n’ roll standards feels somewhat old hat. The allure of the blues is not what it was in the 70’s, where many people would only ever know of tracks like ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’, ‘Got My Mojo Workin’ and ‘Killing Floor’ through Johnny Winter and his kind.
There are, however, moments of brilliance, notably on some of the rockier tunes such as ‘Bonie Moronie’. For the encore, Johnny returned with his trademark Firebird and tore through Elmore James’ ‘Dust My Broom’ playing some excellent slide. Unfortunately, it’s all a bit late for me and I can’t help feeling that I went to watch a legend but came away just having seen a good pub blues band.
Earlier in the evening local heroes Virgil & The Accelerators opened the show – A band that I have had the pleasure of seeing several times over the past few years and have watched as they have developed into a real class act. Playing a compressed set with tracks drawn mostly from 2011’s ‘The Radium’, they are the perfect band to warm up the crowd.
They are clearly appreciative of the opportunity of opening for Johnny Winter; ‘an honour’ and ‘one of our musical heroes’ quips Virgil throughout the set. While this may be usual fodder for most supports bands, Virgil means it, and the fact that they were down the front to enjoy the main act backed this up. For me, they were by far the superior band of the night, and, in the tradition of a good kung fu movie, it was the moment when the student surpasses the old master.
Virgil & The Accelerators play a headline show at the Robin on 29th May.
See more of Rich’s photos here;