ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 6, 1987
By Steve Newton
John Mayall knows blues guitarists. And it’s no wonder since he’s played with the best of them–guys like Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. But the two lead players he brought with him to the Commodore last Thursday (October 29) were so hot that they literally stole the show from the aging godfather of British blues.
After a well-received but not particularly intense set by local R&B faves the Toasters, Mayall’s Bluesbreakers headed straight into a blues workout that showcased the sparkling (and not even warmed up) guitar licks of Walter Trout (the one in the Elvis t-shirt). While Trout wailed away, a grey-haired Mayall stood off in the wings, clapping and jiving along and hollering encouragement.
After coming out and introducing the band–Trout, co-guitarist Coco Montoya, drummer Charlie Warrick, and bassist Bobby Hayes–Mayall lead them into his famous version of the Otis Rush/Willie Dixon blues classic “All Your Love”. The opening track off the Bluesbreakers landmark John Mayall with Eric Clapton LP of the late ’60s (the one Clapton made between stints with the Yardbirds and Cream), “All Your Love” provided a good opportunity for guitarist Montoya to show his stuff. Montoya did just that, playing right-handed with his guitar upside-down like Hendrix: another fellow Mayall used to jam with.
And that’s basically how the Bluesbreakers show progressed through the night, with Montoya and Trout sharing the spotlight and Mayall–on keyboards, harp, and vocals–stealing it back every now and then. Highlights of the set included a version of Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” (from Mayall’s 1968 Crusade album) and the slinky-slow “Rollin’ with the Blues” (from Behind the Iron Curtain). The latter tune ended with a short tribute to Clapton via a few licks from his “Layla” masterpiece.
For the encore, Mayall brought out another famous name from British rock, guitarist Kim Simmons of Savoy Brown, and the now three-strong guitar army settled into a wee duel, wherein Mayall’s players blew Simmons away with a lot more style and a little less volume.
When it was all over, while the Commodore crowd put away their last few drips of beer, Mayall spent another 20 minutes or so tearing down his equipment. After two decades on the road he still doesn’t want (or can’t afford) roadies. Whatta guy!