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John Mayall at The Rose in Pasadena: A Divine Experience For Those Who Worship The Blues

By PATRICK O’HEFFERNAN
Special to CaliforniaRocker.com

PASADENA – Going to a John Mayall concert is like going to church – not to a religious ceremony, unless blues is your religion, but being inside a cathedral experiencing something divine. With 61 albums and more than a half-century of music behind him, British bluesman John Mayall’s current USA tour is cool, reflective, gentle on the mind and the ears, and absolutely divine.

John Mayall’s new album is Find A Way To Care and you can listen to it on Soundcloud here.

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan

Mayall has released a new album: Find A Way to Care – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan

At 83 years young, it is no surprise that Mayall’s energy level is far more relaxed that it was in the days when Eric Clapton and John McVie blasted out hot blues on English stages with him. But, as anyone who has followed Mayall for the past 50 years knows, hot or cool, he loves the blues and that love was on full display Friday night at Pasadena’s The Rose music venue.

Standing in the spotlight on the stage, Mayall and drummer Jay Davenport and bassist Greg Rzab pulled the audience in close with a warm smile and old familiars.  Mayall started the concert easy, conserving his energy for the 12-song set.  Playing on his revered Hammond, Mayall opened with his 1993 release “I’m A Sucker for Love,” introduced by Rzab and Davenport with a relaxed percussion riff that set the contented tempo.

Mayall’s voice, still strong but flattened with years, moved us along to the breakdown and a hot drum solo.  We knew we were in for a night of classic blues by one of the best.

CHECK OUT JOHN MAYALL TOUR DATES

Mayall moved to the Roland keyboard for the  Arthur Crudup song “That’s Alright” made famous by Elvis in 1954 but reimagined very blue by Mayall in his 2013 European concert.  Switching to the electric guitar, Mayall moved to the end of the stage and electrified the crowd with his guitar chops in a coolly delivered “Do I Please You” from his 1977 album A Hardcore Package.

Mayall's tour continues - Photo by Patrick O'Heffernan for CaliforniaRocker.com

Mayall’s tour continues – Photo by Patrick O’Heffernan for CaliforniaRocker.com

Always a natural with audiences, he introduced “The Bear”  from the 1968 album Blues from Laurel Canyon with the story of his stay at the  home of the band Canned Heat in Laurel Canyon and the band’s  lead singer Bob “the Bear” Hite.  He rolled the song out on the Roland with a toe-tapping tempo and his flat voice, edged with a smile. He stayed with the Roland for Sonny Landreth’s song about Louis Armstrong park,  “Congo Square,” delivering the lyrics in a muted monotone but them picking up the pace and adding heat with harmonica. A drum solo further upped the energy and the band finished the song with a flourish.

Davenport and Rzab introduced  “Moving Out and Moving On” with a strong  percussion lead in to Mayall’s guitar, which rode nicely on the kick drum beat. The lyrics were muted, almost flat, but the music moved right along. The feeling shifted to jazz with the “Sum of Something,” originally recorded as electric blues on Mayall’s 2009 Tough album.  Mayall kept things cool until the breakdown and a hot piano and drum solo that got the audience up and clapping.

Both Mayall and the room were fully warmed up as the band came down the stretch.  Even the slow blues number, “Blues for the Lost  Days” had a thrum of electricity through it that  got ramped up in “Moma Talk to Your Daughter” and broke out in a high energy “Chicago Line” with Mayall belting the lyrics and blowing the harmonica for all it was worth.

The band got brought back for an encore which was full tilt blues harmonica, exactly what the room was looking for.  Couples danced, diners clapped and you could tell that as much as Mayall blues are now cool and relaxed,  he loves blowing the harp for all its’s worth and so do his fans.  Mayall’s US  tour has seven more dates in California, Hawaii and Florida before he moves on to Europe, doing what he loves to do… playing divine blues.

Patrick O’Heffernan.  Host, Music FridayLive!, Co-Host MúsicaFusionLA

For more information on John Mayall check out his great fan site: www.johnmayall.com

— Video courtesy of Rob Orme —

John Mayall, Known as ‘Godfather of British Blues,’ to play Del Mar Fair

John Mayall - Photo by Federico Giammusso

John Mayall – Photo by Federico Giammusso

By CRAIG HAMMONS – John Mayall may be 83 years old, but count on “The Godfather of British Blues”  to play as if he were 20 when he performs at the Del Mar Fair on June 15.

Mayall will be touring throughout the U.S. this summer and fall.

At a recent performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Jazz, Blues and R and B Weekend, Mayall kept the crowd going with the promise of much more music yet to come.

Mayall, long regarded as a master of blues, was joined by Charlie Musselwhite and three-time Grammy-nominated vocalist Bettye La Vette.

–> See JOHN MAYALL TOUR dates <–

Musselwhite opened with the barn burner “Good Blues Tonight.” Fifty years of nonstop touring has not stopped this bluesman from slowing down. Musselwhite is proof that great music only gets better with age. He reminisced about being born in Mississippi, then later moving to Florida but like all good blues cats he said his heart is in Chicago. He later did a song called “Strange Land” about when he arrived in Chicago and how big and strange it was, with so many tall building and people everywhere.

Charlie’s band may be the best he’s ever had with drummer June Core, bassist Steve Froberg and guitarist Matt Stubbs. For Charlie, the blues is his best friend, as it’s been with him through the good times and comforts him in the bad. This blues cat is still at the top of his game and tonight it showed.

Bettye Lavette - Photo by Bryan Ledgard

Bettye Lavette – Photo by Bryan Ledgard

After a short intermission, next up was mighty and majestic soul singer LaVette. I’ve only heard a few of her of songs before tonight. But after a few songs in, I realized she does not only sing a song, she lives inside each song. LaVette set a high standard and never fell below it.

She can re-sculpt a song, bring it to life and make it her own. She did a very personal song called “A Woman like Me” where she sings: “It’s hard loving a woman like me, you need to think about it before you get hooked on the venom and can’t live without it.”

She’s a tall, slim and sultry woman that slides across the stage with grace.  Her career spans over 50 years. When it was time for her to close out her set she just kept singing as she exited stage left.

Next up was the legendary Mayall. A pioneer of blues music who has had nothing but the best players in has band over the last 50 years including Eric Clapton, Peter Greene, Walter Trout, Mick Taylor and Coco Montoya. But the blues brothers he had with him tonight were tight and on fire. His touring band consists of: Rocky Athas (guitar), Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums).

At 83 years old, Mayall played like he was a teenager again. He had two keyboards set up in front of the stage with one a piano and the other a Hammond B3. He switched between them effortlessly while at the same time playing harmonica. By the time they were into their second song “Congo Square,” the joint was jumping. One of my favorite songs of the night was the old Sonny Boy Williamson song “Help Me” also done by Ten Years After. Besides playing keyboards and harmonica, Mayall also played guitar on a couple songs even taking some pretty impressive solos.

They whole band all played with excitement and emotion that touched the audience. Mayall says “The blues take takes you, claims you and never lets you go.”

Make no mistake Mayall is a true bluesman still out on the road.

Video courtesy of DoctorNoe

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