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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

The Troubadour, London, February 2nd 2008

It’s a night of both celebration and commiseration in the Troubadour club, one of West London’s oldest music venues. We’re in a small wood-panelled room at the back of the restaurant (named, for no obvious reason, after Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton). There are winners and losers here. The victors, from the valleys west of the Marches are generously sharing champagne with all, the losers glumly knocking it back in between glassesful of red wine.

It’s Rugby Union: England humiliated by a resurgent Wales. And it’s only 6.30 – we’re here to eat before going downstairs to watch bluesman Ian Siegal and his band (supported by Bluesmix) – and our hosts are anxious that we get there in time to “bag a good spot”. And while I remember, I think it might be Mr Siegal’s birthday – he’s certainly celebrating something.
Strangely when we do get down, almost promptly at 8.00pm the cramped little club is already packed. It’s not really fit for purpose – a sort of U-shaped space with a stage in the middle. But although it’s changed over the years (the stage, I understand, used to be at the back of the room where there are now some cavernous seating booths) it does have a very nice atmosphere – which is just as well as we end up waiting for almost two hours before Bluesmix, with a eclectic mix of not so funky New Orleans funk and blues, take the stage. That’s two hours of soaking in the history of the place – this was where Bob Dylan first played in London, Jimi played here (“kiss the wall”), and Joni. Folk guitar supreme Martin Carthy was a regular in the sixties, and Led Zeppelin are even alleged to have played here during a run of gigs at nearby Earls Court. So that’s a lot of history – and, I should add, red wine – to soak up. And quite possibly we did a little too much of both. Red
And don’t get me wrong – whilst Bluesmix did have their moments I did feel (like most of the audience to be fair) that they played a little too long – so that by the time Ian Siegal got to the stage at around 11.00 we’d all (band included) soaked up a little more. Nonetheless Siegal hit the stage like a whirlwind with songs like ‘Groundhog blues’, ‘John the Revelator’, ‘Sugar Rush’ and ‘Brandy Balloon’.
The area around the stage was packed as everyone tried to get a view, and as I’ve said before, the number of pretty girls outnumbered the chaps in a way that just isn’t supposed to happen at Blues gigs – Mr Siegal has got something special, and it’s not just his guitar playing, or his two wonderful Harmony guitars. On the subject of which – did I tell you Serge, that there’s a group of what can frankly only be called Harmony Maniacs on the internet? And loads of Harmony guitars for sale on e-bay, and a specialist store where you can buy them too? And some pretty good resources to at least help you figure out if you might be buying something that’s ‘not quite right’, as you say in the world of whisky. Or that, more strangely still, one of them has ended up in my house? Ouch.

Anyway – back to the gig – or should I say party, which is what it ended up feeling like. Siegal ended up playing some covers that were appropriate to the venue (beyond which I cannot go as he swore his audience to secrecy) before most of Bluesmix joined for a final jam on a few songs. He’s playing again in London in June, and I think in a few other scattered venues in the UK. Otherwise your best chance to see him is if you live in Holland, Belgium or Sweden. Which is lucky for you and shame for the UK – he’s certainly worth the price of the admission. And if you’re really stuck then you might like to buy a 2008 reissue of Meat and Potatoes, imaginatively called A Bigger Plate of Meat and Potatoes, with a new DVD recorded at the North Sea Blues Festival. But it’s not as good as the real thing. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs

Bluesmix MySpace page
Ian Siegal MySpace page

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