Monday, January 31, 2011

Fifth 2 I's rock and roll show hits right note

The fifth annual trawl through the byways of British Rock and Roll - the Tales From the Woods tribute to the 2 I's coffee bar - moved to a new venue this year, the Borderline in Soho, not far from the original Old Compton Street coffee emporium. And it wasn't just the venue that was new. There was a professionalism about the show that was lacking in some of the early shows. It ran to time and there were no diversions from ageing singers of questionable talent doing their own improvised numbers. These shows get better every year.
The evening was held together by the Tales from The Woods House Band (lead guitarist John Spencely, Brian 'Bunter' Clark on drums, Claire Hamlin on keyboards and Robb Davis on stand up bass). They backed three of the four main acts and were excellent throughout.
First act that I caught was Simon Scott (pictured below), who had flown in from Florida for the gig. He had a minor hit on Parlophone in 1964 with Move It Baby, a favourite on the rock and roll scene these days apparently, which was the highlight of his set, which was otherwise a selection of rather average covers of rock and roll favourites, from Blue Suede Shoes, to Bye Bye Love and a dirge-like Love Me Tender. He has enthusiasm and a reasonable voice, but seemed a little rusty, forgetting lyrics on occasions.
Next up was Terry Wayne, who was a star of an earlier 2 I's show, who continues to look and sound pretty good. Terry had a string of 45s issued on Columbia in the late 50s, including covers of Matchbox and Oh Lonesome Me and his own composition Slim Jim Tie, all of which he played. He said he had had no chance of rehearsing with the band, but you wouldn't have known it as he went through a string of crisp rock and roll and country covers including Baby I Don't Care and Sea of Heartbreak, plus Teenage Boogie, a disc now out on a CD single. Highlight of this year's show was Graham Fenton, formerly the frontman of the 70s and 80s rock and roll band Matchbox. His set was mostly rock and roll covers, but his energy and choice of material set him above most the early British rock and rollers still on the scene. Among the highlights were Freddy Cannon's Buzz Buzz A Diddle It, Conway Twitty's I'll Try, Elvis's Trying To Get To You (with great guitar from John Spencely) and Ricky Nelson's Believe What You Say. He finished with Rockabilly Rebel, a hit for Matchbox in the seventies.
The show owed a great deal to the brilliant House Band, with the guitar work of John Spencely (pictured) outstanding, but good support also from the rest of the band.
This year's show, like last year's, climaxed with the Incredible Roy Young Band featuring Howie Casey on sax and John Spencely standing in on lead guitar. Roy is a great boogie woogie player with a raw, exciting voice and he belted his way through a selection of numbers made famous by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Willis. He certainly got the good sized crowd going and even though there was little original about the material he chose, it was very much what the audience wanted.
Final photo is of saxman Howie Casey, once of Liverpool band Howie Casey and The Seniors.
Overall this 2 I's show was a pretty good evening's entertainment, ably supported by MC Ricky Stevens and DJ 'Mr Angry' John Howard. As one friend remarked to me: "I always thought British rock and roll was rubbish but after tonight I have revised my opinion." I wouldn't go that far - it was and still is largely rubbish - but at least the choice of acts showed imagination, even if the choice of material in some cases did not. A success again for promoter Keith Woods and all at Tales From The Woods.


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