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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
DEAR MR FANTASY: A CELEBRATION FOR JIM CAPALDI featuring Steve Winwood, Paul Weller, Pete Townshend, Yusuf Islam, Joe Walsh, Gary Moore, Jon Lord, Bill Wyman
The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, January 21st 2007
Roast beef It’s 5.30 on Sunday evening. By all accounts I should be sipping a nice glass of Manzanilla while the heady aromas of rare roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and of course cabbage – gently simmered for half an hour or so I reckon – gently seduce me to the dinner table, accompanied by a large glass of claret, of course. But instead I’m shivering and hungry at the door of the Roundhouse as the Photographer has her bag searched and camera gently removed – “Sorry, no cameras tonight”.
The gig’s timed to start at six – and when veteran DJ and Old Grey Whistle test presenter “Whispering” Bob Harris takes the stage he’s only ten minutes late. Why so early? Well no doubt licensing laws have something to do with it. But as I also calculated that the average age of the musicians who’ve given up their Sunday evening to remember Traffic lyricist and drummer (and solo artiste of repute) Jim Capaldi, is 77 (statisticians might like to note the huge skew created by the presence of Bill Wyman), then I’m sure that you can understand that they all need to be tucked up in bed quite early.
Jim Capaldi died in January 2005 from stomach cancer, and this gig has been organised by his wife and friends in his memory, and to raise money for children’s charity Jubilee Action. The tickets aren’t cheap, and I’m not surprised that at the bar I’m surrounded by brokers moaning like market-stall traders about how poor business is. Next to us in the crowd are a group of nicely tanned and creased-jeaned bankers whose ‘casual’ clothing exudes dosh. So no doubt they’ll also be joining in the auction of rock and roll memorabilia that’s going to take place on e-bay on the 19th February for the same cause (at the moment, Bob tells us, it’s all in his living room). You’ll also be able to see (and buy) the film or DVD; there are more cameras in the place than you’d find in a TV studio.     Jm Capaldi
Events like this are always difficult to pull off, often a sort of curate’s egg. But not, I’m glad to say, this one. We are not overwhelmed with speeches; those that we do get are nicely-timed and reflect a pervasive sense of friendship towards Capaldi (most of the musicians performing have collaborated with him at one time or another, many were close friends) and a real celebration of his talents – he did after all write some of the songs that defined a decade. And whilst we do get an almost bewildering sequence of artistes appearing and then reappearing during the first and final third of the show, continuity is provided by a hugely accomplished house-band for the night – led by saxophonist Mark Rivera, the band features drummers Simon Kirke and Andy Newmark, percussionist Ray Cooper, Hammond B4 organist Paul Wickens, guitarist Pete Bonas and bassist Dave Bronze.

Believe me, this is some band (they delivered a tremendous ‘Rock and roll stew” towards the end of the night), they’re well rehearsed and aided by backing vocalists (though they do all get a solo spot) Margo Buchanan, Stevie Lange and Dennis Locorriere (yes Sylvia, that Dennis Locorriere). Bill Wyman occasionally takes a turn on bass and Jon Lord plays organ on and off in the first bit, and for almost all of the last section.

Paul Weller kicks off with ‘Paper sun’ and returns later to sing ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ and ‘Pearly Queen’, which you think he might almost have written himself. He’s followed by the grimacing Joe Walsh who sings and plays a very bluesy ‘Living on the outside’ – I’m not sure if the facial distortions are caused by the intensity of his guitar work (which is pretty good) or the obvious difficulties he’s having with the auto-cue, but he continues in the same vein when he returns to sing ‘Forty thousand headmen’ and ‘John Barleycorn’ – an odd choice, but to his obvious delight he delivers the goods. Later, not to be outdone, rock-dinosaur Gary Moore tries to out-grimace Walsh as he plays ….well I couldn’t really tell as it sounded just like every blistering-guitar-riffed Gary Moore song I’ve ever heard. As for the grimacing, I marked it as a draw. Yusuf Islam appeared and sang ‘Man with no country’ (into which he oddly inserts a verse or two sung in Zulu) interlaced with the chorus from his own ‘Wild world’. Towards the end of the night Pete Townshend nearly stole the show with a wonderful solo version of ‘No face, no name, no number’. And despite the ‘no cameras’ rule there’s a (badly made) film of this on youtube, which whilst it captures an amusing exchange with a heckler at the start doesn’t really do Townsend’s performance any justice. It was a wonderful moment.

Steve Winwood took the stage with his band to fill the middle section of the evening. Like Capaldi, Winwood’s solo career faltered somewhat after a promising start and he seems to have spent much of the past decade (or more) making the sort of music that they play on American TV as a background to major golf tournaments. Apparently he’s put all of that behind him now and gone back to basics, and if this short set was anything to go by then he’s made the right decision. Sitting at his Hammond B3 he could have passed (from a distance) for a man in his early twenties, and his voice was just superb. He played ‘Rainmaker’, ‘Who knows what tomorrow may bring’, a deeply-grooved ‘Low Spark of high-heeled boys’ (with inspired and delicate guitar work from Jose Nesto) and ‘Light up or leave me alone”, before picking up a Telecaster to deliver a coruscating ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’. And at the end when we had the obligatory ‘”all the performers on stage bit” (well almost all of them) he and Walsh led them through ‘Love will keep us alive’, written by Capaldi for the Eagles.

If there was a degree of self-congratulation (and some obvious deep sighs of relief) on the stage at the end then it was deserved. As I said these things are difficult to pull off, but this one was done with consummate skill. So much so that I can heartily recommend that you buy the DVD when it’s released; you can sit at home and enjoy it after a nice Sunday dinner. - Nick Morgan.

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