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Pacific Road, Birkenhead, 12 October 2007

I've seen Walter Trout a few times now and every time he gets better and better, but this time he just nailed it!

First up we were treated to a very accomplished solo set by an American singer/songwriter, Ralston Bowles (had to make sure I spelt that right!) which contained some very good songs, but I just felt he went on for a tad too long and the crowd were getting a little restless by the end. Three songs shorter would have been great.

Then Walter and the boys shambled on stage like a local covers band playing at a wedding. Walter put his glasses on, squinted at the setlist, took his glasses off, wandered to the front of the stage and ripped out a howling blues riff that just wasn't human! He had the crowd in his pocket.

The band kicked in and launched into an ass-kicking 'I Can't Help It' followed by a sensational slow blues '40 Long Days'. And what a band he's assembled - Sammy Avila's Hammond playing was just superb, Rick Knapp, the replacement bass player for the sadly late Jimmy Trapp, was right on the money, and what can you say about drummer Joey Pafumi - he plays like a man possessed, with cross handed cymbal crashes and impressive stick juggling AND he looks like Animal from the Muppets - perhaps that's why they kept him behind a glass screen!

As for Walter, he was just out of this world. I was about ten feet from the stage and I still couldn't see how he does it - the fingers were just a blur. But there's nothing flash - it's not just fret-wanking, it's all structured, tuneful and totally mesmeric. It seems like every note is torn from his very soul as you watch his facial expressions. He occasionally looks at the guitar like even he can't believe what's just come out of it.

Highlights for me were 'Walking In The Rain', 'Life In The Jungle', 'The Talking Guitar' - a tremendous piece of guitar playing which Walter described as a typical conversation between him and his first wife (!) and a sensational version of 'Why Did You Leave Me' with Robert Plant sound-alike Andrew Elt taking lead vocals. He's the band's road manager and, as Walter said afterwards, 'What other band do you know where the roadie can come out and do that - Holy Shit!'

A fifteen minute encore ('I'm Going Down') just about satisfied the baying crowd and that was that - over two hours of blues/rock heaven, a million notes played and not a duff one in sight.

Walter and the boys came down to the merchandise stall afterwards for CD signing and a chat, and you're left with the impression that here are a bunch of musicians, who, despite their brilliance, are a modest and almost self-deprecating lot, just playing the blues and enjoying themselves immensely while they're doing it. And we enjoyed it immensely too.

Review by Alan Jones

Best of 2007


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