A cold Saturday night sees me standing outside the sold out O2 ABC venue in Glasgow to witness what was originally the last date on Wilko Johnson’s Farewell tour, but due to demand to see the Canvey Island bluesman one final time extra dates had been added to the tour.
First band on tonight were the 45’s from Glasgow who made this photographer feel very old as they all looked like they should be in school and not on the main stage of the ABC! They played a mixture of blues and skiffle music very well for their tender years even surviving string breakages and the guitarist being handed Wilko Johnson’s very own Telecaster to finish their set! In fact tonight could be called the “Night of the Telecaster” as this was the preferred weapon of choice by all the guitarists on stage, Leo Fender would have been very proud indeed.
By the time the 45’s had finished their quite well received set the ABC was still filling up due to the early start to tonight’s gig as there is a nightclub on straight afterwards. Touring support band with Wilko Johnson was Eight Rounds Rapid from Southend-On-Sea. Who made a striking appearance with them all being suited and booted, but with very little interaction with the audience even to the extent that their vocalist David Alexander would walk off stage during guitar breaks or stand completely motionless I found them quite strange truth be told. With their punk inspired lyrics and delivery you would expect some movement but that is left up to guitarist Simon Johnson and the driving bass work of Jules Cooper which I particularly enjoyed.
By the time that Eight Rounds Rapid was finishing their set with “My Mate” the ABC was full to bursting for the arrival of Wilko Johnson to the stage. The lights dimmed and without any preamble or introduction Wilko launched into his set. The start of the show was a bit hectic for me as I was in the photo pit with twice the normal number of photographers and a video crew recording his last tour, but picture taking duties done I was able to watch the rest of his set. I had been worried that the atmosphere might have been a bit subdued due to the recent announcement about Wilko having untreatable pancreatic cancer but I needn’t have worried as Wilko was providing us with a high energy set of his blues based classics.
The Dr Feelgood classic Roxette was the first song that I got to watch completely and give my full attention to and it had lost none of its charm tonight with the Glasgow audience lapping it up. With Wilko continually crossing the stage and machine gunning the crowd with his trademark red and black Telecaster it was business as usual for the Bluesman. An extended “Don’t Let Your Daddy Know” lets the other two members of the Wilko Johnson band have their moment in the limelight to bassist Norm Watt-Roy and drummer Dylan Howe both providing short and very effective solo spots during the song. Norm in particular quite clearly puts his heart and soul into his very distinctive playing style that I found myself watching him quite a lot during the set.
Wilko just kept pouring song after song out hardly had one song finished and he was launching into the next The Western Plain, Sneaking Suspicion, Everybody is carrying a gun & Woolly Bully all followed in a quick fire succession with the Glasgow audience lapping them up and demanding more. But all good nights have to come to an end and before we know its encore time and the Chuck Berry classic Johnny B Goode is being played with Wilko waving good bye to the audience during the “bye bye” parts of the song that it really got emotional and you realised that this was indeed the last time you would get to see this fine Blues man in concert and with a simple “Thank you, good night and goodbye” he walked off the stage to raptures applause.
But Glasgow still wanted more from the Canvey Island blues man and refused to let this be the last song from the blues legend and stomped and screamed till he reappeared on stage, explaining that he doesn’t normally do second encores these days because of his condition but as it was Glasgow he would make an exception which was met with much screaming and shouting as he launched into a final song. In all the excitement of getting another song and dancing I forgot to record what it actually was and was just happy to have another 3 mins of this talented blues man on stage, before Wilko departed for the final time and the house lights came on to signal the end of a very emotional night of classic blues music.
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