There’s always something heart-warming about a Walter Trout show.
Indeed, long before his miraculous recovery from ill health, he always made a virtue of making a connection with his crowd, either through socially conscious songs, universally applicable narratives or simply his in-between song banter.
Then there’s the way he slips from a humorous or ironic comment to intense big toned riffs that shake his audience from their heads to their toes.
And as he hits the stage at West London’s very fashionable Under The Bridge and leads the band into the familiar Sonny Boy Williamson opener ‘Help Me’, it’s almost as if he’s never been away.
But that would be to overlook the essence of his show, which aside from rocking hard and entertaining the fans, is all about communication. And in Trout’s absence there were very few contenders to take on a baton that demands such honesty and passion.
If blues is about feel and emotion Walter has it in bucket loads, and he’s unafraid to share it with his fans.
He doesn’t fall into the trap of becoming a shoe gazing blues practitioner who plays for himself. On the contrary, when he steps back into the early 90′s Trout mode for a stonking version of Albert Collins’ ‘Cold Cool Feeling’, he connects with the tenets of the song while investing it with his own heartfelt emotions.
Then there’s a point deep into the show when he briefly shares some of his darkest moments with the crowd on the introduction to ‘Please Take Me Home’. As he turns to his adjust his amp, he’s clearly fighting off the tears, only to rally again with a half turn and a blistering solo that momentarily seems to exorcise his demons.
Trout and band don’t use a set list and just like a generation of Zappa bands before them, they appear capable of playing anything at will as long as it’s in the right key, a fact Walter jocularly mentions when he confides that he called the wrong key for a song the other night.
He sets the tone for the evening with the deeply emotional, but rock intensity of ‘Saw My Mama Crying’ and calls up the first of several guests, as he jams jubilantly with Sari Schorr’s guitarist Innes Sibun.
Sibun sticks around for an unexpected cover of ‘The Other Side of the Pillow’ from Trout’s chart topping ‘We’re All In This Together’ album, on which he cleverly substitutes a guitar part for Charlie Musselwhite’s harp.
Almost in spite of the all star duet album, Trout contents himself with rediscovering some of his own back catalogue favourites and hits base with the ‘Got A Broken Heart’ which features one of his best vocals on the night.
Special guest Stephen Dale Petit makes an appearance with a gnawing tone and focussed attack, while Sari Schorr’s brings impeccable phrasing and raw gut emotion to her own recorded version of Walter’s ‘Work No More’, which is arguably one of the best contemporary blues songs of our time.
Walter is a generous band leader and knows the value of pacing a show. To that end, he also calls on the bass playing guitarist Danny Avila – keyboard player Sammy’s son – who strides the front of the stage with some stunt bass that rocks the house.
But it’s Walter’s early career ‘Prisoner Of A Dream’ that reminds us of just why he’s enjoys such durability. This head-on meeting of a riff driven rocker with a melodic chorus and spine tingling guitar is everything rock/blues should be.
It’s so good I can forgive him for finishing with Don Nix’s ‘Going Down’. In fairness, Trout has been playing this song longer than most, but with such a great back catalogue of his own songs, he might have been just a tad more selfish.
Then again the room is bouncing, the band is smoking and the job is well and truly done.
Early comers are treated to a rip-roaring opening blues-rock set by blues chanteuse Sari Schorr & The Engine Room.
The former Joe Louis Walker and Popa Chubby singer has carved out her own blues-rock niche. Tonight she impresses with her timbre and phrasing on ‘Damn The Reason’ and the self penned ‘Okalahoma’. She also gets passionate on a raucous version of ‘In The Pines’ and rocks the house with Zeppelin’s Rock & Roll’, which features Innis Sibun.
She’s just hitting her stride when her time is up, but you suspect a lot of tonight’s appreciative crowd will be back to see her own show.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Rockrpix