Live review: Dr John and the Lower 911
NOT CONTENT with releasing one of the albums of the year, Dr John also delivered one of the gigs of the year, with a terminal case of the blues.
This is a show to savour from the opening bars, with Malcolm John Rebennack, or the doctor to you and me, strolling on stage in dapper New Orleans style, his walking stick festooned with voodoo charms, before rolling into Revolution from his latest, astonishing record Locked Down.
He moves between organ and piano, the former for more recent material, the latter for his older work. While standing behind the organ, his voice occasionally sounds underpowered. He takes the odd detour on guitar to produce a squally, edgy solo or two. But when placed behind the low-slung power of his beloved grand piano, bearing a skull like a hood ornament, there is no denying who is the boss of this blues town.
His band, the Lower 911, are excellent, with funky, brassy feints and guitar bursts above a rhythm section that never betrays the groove. New Orleans pianist Jon Cleary provides terrific support without ever stepping on the doctor’s elegantly clad toes.
Right Place, Wrong Time is pure, night-tripping funk. The crowd-pleasing Makin’ Whoopie is irresistible. Big Shot sounds like he and the band have been playing it for decades, and Locked Down takes no prisoners and pulls no punches. It is only in the encore that he strips it back to just vocal and piano for a tremulous, beautifully judged Blues All Over – he could play this Louisiana rhythm and blues beauty all night, and no one would leave their seats. And if there’s a better way to finish a show than with a rousing Such a Night, I’ve yet to hear it.
Across town, an ageing queen of pop is doing her best to convince half a stadium that she is still relevant and inventive; in Vicar Street, the doctor is in the house, and he’s about to bring it down.