Albert Lee at Gateshead Old Town Hall on 18th September 2014

Albert Lee (1 of 5)

This year Albert Lee is 70 and he’s been out there playing for more than 50 years and along the way he’s played with many of the true greats – among them Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris, the Everly Brothers, The Crickets, Jackson Browne, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dave Edmunds and err…Shakin’ Stevens. Tonight though, he’s on stage at the Old Town Hall, with a bunch of seasoned musicians who look as though they have played in every joint in the western world and lived to tell the tale.

The five piece band take the high stage just after 8pm to loud cheers and applause from the (it has to be said) fairly elderly crowd. After a spot of silent tuning they launch into their breezy opening shot “Time of Your Life” that sets the tone for the night. Each song tonight is played with style and taste and it’s easy to see why some call Albert “the greatest guitar player in the world”. His fiery snapping playing is stunning as he plays a Carl Perkins tune that highlights his rockabilly style guitar with some beautiful pedal steel from Gerry Hogan. The piano and guitar interplay on “Runaway Trains” is magical and builds to a wonderful coda. The playing is immaculate throughout the night although the first half takes a while to ignite. There’s three vocalists in the band and the singing drummer, Peter Barron, delivers a jaunty and sardonic “You Just Might” that begins to stir things up and this is smartly followed by Albert on “Take Your Time” the first of several Buddy Holly tunes tonight.

Gavin Povey is on stomping keyboards and vocals and has a sound like the Allman Brothers crossed with the pumpin boogie woogie style of the Killer himself, Mr Jerry Lee Lewis. This is most prominent on “It Looks Like Love to Me” followed smartly by an Everly Brothers song “Feel a Brand New Heartache Coming On”. Albert spent five years as band leader for the famous duo so it doesn’t get much more authentic than this. We’re back with Baron, as he puts it “from behind the piano”, with a real weepy entitled “I’ll Never Get Over You” before Albert announces that he has “A little western swing” for us and tosses out “One of the last songs Buddy Holly wrote” on piano rather than guitar. This is “That’s When You Start Learning the Game” and the band are really cooking by now and Albert notes that the following tune “Real Wild Child” is “totally inappropriate for guy’s of our age” but does it anyway before roaring off into the intermission with Dave Edmunds “Sweet Little Lisa” complete with rockabilly barrel house piano

The second half opens with a sterling cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care” that has Albert handling the tricky vocals of Jeff Lynn, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison on his own with aplomb and turning in an ace solo to boot. He smartly follows that with Emmylou Harris’ “Luxury Liner” – well he did play on the original so why the hell not? It features some great guitar pickin’ and tasty extended playing from the whole band. Then Albert laughingly shouts “Here comes Gavin…. ” and our heroic piano player launches into “Daddy’s Girl” that sounds like a pretty sordid tale. Things slow a little as Albert delivers a heartfelt “Little country ballad for ya” entitled “Just Enough to Keep Me Hanging On.”

There’s some promotion for their new album with sad ballad entitled “The King of Broken Hearts” where the hero of the song “doesn’t know he’s a king”. It’s a great vocal by Barron and Albert with a Costelloish feel and then another tune by Gavin from new album which is very Jerry Lee and Dave Edmunds then “Spellbound” another new song lifts the riff from “Summertime Blues” a little.

Albert clearly wears his influences on both his sleeves and tonight we hear loud echoes of Eddie Cochran, The Everly Brothers, Dave Edmunds, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins. Gavin gives a great “Glory Bound” that’s pure Jerry Lee with some sensational Gerry Hogan pedal steel and Albert’s trade mark picking to complete the sound. We get a passionate cover of Ray Charles’ “Leave My Woman Alone” that has a lovely flick of the “Layla” riff at the very end – strange but a nice little touch that probably goes unnoticed by most. The last pre encore song can, of course, only be “Country Boy” a song that Albert wrote back in his Heads Hands and Feet days and has been playing now for four decades. He brings in snaps of all kinds of licks including a blast of “Smoke on the Water” (he played with Deep Purple’s Jon Lord too!) it’s a frantic closer that attracts loud cheers. We end the night on a couple more covers including songs by Jimmy Webb and a dedication to the just deceased George Hamilton IV on an unnamed recent Glen Campbell tune both of which are heartfelt and tear jerking. Finally, after a stormy “Tear it Up”, Albert and the Band troop off stage to sell you their latest signed CD. An excellent night of fiery guitar magic and top notch playing, thanks Albert.

Reviewer: Greg Johnson
Photographer: John Jobling

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