When Hollywood producer Ian Gurvitz was looking for a theme tune for his 2006 film ‘LA Blues’ he didn’t find it in Chicago or the Mississippi Delta, he found it in Germany – in Osnabruck to be precise. It doesn’t take more than a couple of songs from the crowded Harmonie to understand why. Imagine someone with the calm simplicity of BB King, the feel for melodious solos of Peter Green and the voice and commercial savvy of Eric Clapton and I’ll give him a name for you – ‘Toscho’ Todorovic. On this particular evening Todorovic is introducing the new CD for his 1976 founded band Blues Company to a crowded and enthuastic crowd of varied ages but of common appreciation for the Blues.
Todorovic hails from Osnabruck but there is a fire in his belly when he talks of conflict that reveals his family roots. Both parents fled from Yugoslavia (Bosnia & Macedonia) at the close of World War 2, but he follows the news there still and feels the growing pains of the Region. Most notable for this is the song ‘Red Blood’. In one of his frequent monologues of the evening (I did say he reminded me of BB King) he spoke of 1991 as a year with a World seemingly without peace. Civil War in Yugoslavia that was portrayed in the media like Hollywood films. Seeing people die onscreen and the need to remember that somewhere there are parents, children and loved ones who will mourn them.
Not that all of Todorovic’s music is doom laden. The man knows how to lighten up too, as with the classic ‘I don’t Know’ and it’s refrain “What did I do to make you mad THIS time baby?” and it’s boogie woogie swagger. Close your eyes during ‘Cold Rain’ and you would swear it was EC on stage with his faithful ‘Blacky’ Strat. BB, EC, they all play a part in the Toscho Todorovic sound without losing the distinctive ‘Toscho’ stamp. What all three have in common is the ability to play like it’s so easy to tap into a feeling, and amplify that feeling through six steel strings
Across the stage from Todorovic is Mike Titre. Middlesborough born Titre provides a great counterweight to Todorov’s occasionally weighty monologue. He has a ready smile and often sings out lyrics almost as if he’s having so much fun he forgets himself. On this particular evening he had particular need of that sunny disposition as his amplifier seemed to take it’s own coffee breaks at will, the cry from fans next to it that “The lights gone out again” became something of a phrase for the evening that I will long remember. Todorovic just looked on, any annoyance at the problem that he might have felt safely hidden behind his aviator sunglasses. Speaking to Titre after the show I discover he is an enthusiastic DIY man where electronics is concerned (hence the one of a kind ‘Gelbe Sack’ (yellow Bag) foot-pedal that from what I understood is a variation on a tube screamer. Thankfully his playing is a lot more reliable than his electronic wizardry.
Mike Titre, despite the smiles, takes the music very seriously indeed and is an excellent musician in his own right; switching seamlessly (when his amp allows) between Bass, lead, rhythm and harmonica as needed and being excellent at all of them. Okay, as a blues harp fan I’m especially pleased to have heard his playing. ‘King Bee’ with it’s Little Walter driven harp was a highlight and his earthy guitar playing on ‘Plastic People’ was also something to savor. Mention here is also due to Polish musician Arnold Ogrodnik. The two men spent most of the evening swapping bass guitar chores with Ogrodnik also handling keyboards. Refreshing to see a band with more musicians than instruments (Mr Bonamassa take note!)
When Todorovic sat stageside with his Ibanez the two reminded me of BB and Lucille. A man at peace with his music and his ability to play it just as he wants. All of which made his clowning around for the encore more hilarious. How he studied, studied and studied again just how Bo Diddley played. He does a little shuffle with his hands on the fretboard and later a little shuffle with his feet as the band bounce through the famous rock n roll classic.
After more than twenty releases and more than 30 years of playing it’s hard to imagine that ‘Toscho’Todorovic still needs to practice playing anything. His latest CD ‘’O Town Grooves’ (‘O’ for ‘Osnabrück’) has that easy confidence that belies years of learning ‘Bo Diddley’. It’s a world away from Wars and Yugoslavia – but the hints of where Toscho’s music comes from are there, not least in a guest appearance by Serbian Blues Queen Ana Popovic. Like BB King, Toscho Todorovic has been there and bought the Tshirt when it comes to a life spent with the Blues – and we, lucky people, can reap the benefits of that in his music.