Monday, April 30, 2007

It's Jack Daniel's time: T-Model Ford / Saint Etienne

Two enduring images of the legendary Mississippi bluesman T-Model Ford's concert at The Spitz on Saturday night, the final performance of this year's 'Spitz Festival of Blues'.

* The instructions which greeted us upon our arrival at the venue:

Apologies for the blurred image. It says 'Management requests that you do not buy alcohol for T-Model Ford. Thank you for your co-operation'.

Considering Ford is 86 years old, I guess the promoters and venue owners would like to make sure he didn't have one bourbon too many, although considering between every song Ford would utter eagerly to the rapturous crowd - 'It's Jack Daniel's time', I have a funny feeling he can probably handle his drink (his other catchphrase of the night - 'And that's for God damn sure', seemed to be the tag line to every story he told whilst on stage e.g. 'If you have a lady with you tonight, make sure she's got a stamp on her. If your lady doesn't have a stamp on her, she's mine. 'Cause I'm a ladies man....and that's for God damn sure!').

Seeing Ford play for over two-and-a-half hours with very few breaks between songs certainly was a super-human feat, as I don't think I've ever been to a gig where at the end of the night the audience was more exhausted than the artist in front of them. The man's enthusiasm for playing was so infectious that despite constant calls from his drummer (and support act) Lightnin' Malcolm to end the set, Ford's charm and enthusiasm for playing 'The Tail Dragon', which was a replacement for his previously stolen guitar which he called 'Black Nanny', made sure there was always one more encore to come. Eventually at 12.30am the performance was finally curtailed to ensure Ford and Malcolm had ample chance to rest before their flight out of London only 5-and-a-half hours later, but not before Ford shook every audience members hand, most aware that they may never get to witness such a sight again.

T-Model Ford: A Blues Legend? That's for God damn sure.

* Tonight sees Saint Etienne preview some new material (in secret!) ahead of their 'This Is Tomorrow' performance at the Royal Festival Hall in June. I'm looking forward to seeing how they've come up with a soundtrack to what was one of London culture's most quirky and ambitious events, The Festival of Britain, staged at the south bank of the Thames in 1951, in an area which funnily enough became known as...wait for it....the South Bank. I've very much enjoyed the events which the group have put on as part of their role as artists in residence this year at the South Bank Centre, which have consisted of the various Turntable Cafe club nights (themes included The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Welsh Pop and of course, The Festival of Britain) and culminating in June's premiere work from the fine purveyors of pop themselves. Tickets on sale from the Southbank box office (click here).

Saint Etienne - The Way We Live Now (from Finisterre - available at Amazon)