Without a new disc to offer since his visit to the Harmonie last year, I was expecting a re-run of the excellent ‘Tower Sessions’ set on Thursday at The Harmonie.
Instead we got a new band, a new look, and even a good portion of new songs from one of Englands most inventive Bluesmen, Aynsley Lister.
It’s not a full house, which surprises me a bit since last years gig was an excellent one and Aynsley Lister has a lot of fans in Europe. The audience is a very respectable one size wise though, and Aynsley rewards them by dressing up for the occasion. Gone are the faded T shirt and combat trousers of the ill fated ‘Klang Station’ gig from a few years back. A certain Mr Bonamassa has obviously been inspiring Blues guitarists beyond their string techniques, but where Joe’s shiny suits are on the ‘showy’ side, Aynsley’s would pass much more comfortably at a wedding. The familiar striding tones of opener ‘Big Sleep’ make it clear that this band is a dozen leagues above the average Wedding party combo though. The confident sound is in itself an accomplishment since the band has had quite a shake up: Doctors orders have prevented bassist Midus from making the tour, and a new man sits on the keyboard stool too. It becomes clear that this evening is very definitely not going to be a ‘Tower Sessions’ re-run.
Despite the changes the early set is pleasingly familiar without digging deep into the past. ‘Early Morning Dew’ with my favourite Lister line: “There’s a man, with a squeegee in his hand” and ‘Time is running Out’ both from ‘Equilibrium’. Good stuff indeed, but not really burning hot and I’m sure hoping things will move up a gear in time for ‘Balls of Steel’ and ‘Crosstown Traffic’. But just when we were feeling safe in familiar territory Aynsley announces “A new one” and tantalisingly points out that “We’ll be playing a lot of new ones this evening to see how they sound. If you like them we’ll go in and record them later in the year”. The first of these, ‘Inside Out’, follows directly with a funky intro from Steve Amadeo who is deputising on bass from Ian Parker’s band. By the time it’s chug along riff comes to an end I’m rather pleased and even thinking that if all the new ones are like this, then I’ll willingly forego the Lister classics I was expecting later.
Maybe fearful of too much new too soon, the next numbers up are familiar: ‘What’s it all About’ and a Lister ‘classic’ from Equilibrium: ‘Crazy’, played on Aynsley’s slide guitar of choice, his old 60’s cello style instrument that always looks so delicate a puff of wind would turn it to dust, but it makes a super chunky sound – in short a quirky looking guitar for a quirky sounding song. One of my all time AL favourites. ‘Sugar’ is another new number and so is the next one up ‘Home’ which builds on a slow keyboard base to a full-blooded Rock song and is one to make the mouth water for that recording studio date promised earlier. ‘Hero’ is probably the oldest song from Aynsley’s repertoire tonight and it’s Heavy Metal riff is a reminder that the boy can ROCK. Having rocked, we were in for a surprise: “This is one from Nina Simone” announces the Man. It’s also going to become a classic in the Aynsley Lister set from now on I’m sure – ‘Feeling Good’ is a perfect vehicle for Lister’s dynamics. starting with super piano courtesy of the excellent Andre Bassing. Clearly, Aynsley Lister’s next release is going to be a joy if it delivers on the promise of these new numbers. A further ‘new one’ in the shape of ‘Possession’ is actually so new that I can hear Aynsley calling out the chords to Steve Amadeo at one point. Music doesn’t get fresher than that Ladies & Gentlemen!
Okay, lots of new stuff in the set then, but no one’s going home until we hear ‘Purple Rain’ of course, and it’s a super (if not entirely unexpected) encore. What was unexpected was a further encore number (“I think we’ve played everything we know” joked Aynsley as he plugged back in. What we got was something I’d been expecting a lot more of – Blues. It came in the simple form of Lowell Fulsom’s ‘Reconsider Baby’, but of course as soon as Lister flicked on his foot pedal and took a solo it went beyond a simple ‘anyone can do it’ 12 bar.
So there you have it. You can tear up those T shirts in the foyer with Aynsley on the front and ‘JUST ROCK’ boldly on the back. Mr Lister’s next offering should prove to be a whole lot more than that. He’s clearly writing the best lyrics of his life and making his most creative music to date. I would tentatively say – don’t file under Blues alone, Aynsley Lister is more than ‘JUST ROCK’ these days.
Great review from what sounds to have been another classic Aynsley show. Due to surgery and other commitments, the band has been in a state of flux; Dan Healey and Andre Bassing sharing keyboards, Steve Amadeo and earlier this year Colin Peters on bass and even though Paul is back on drums, I’ve seen Simon Small and even Wayne Proctor back on the drum stool. MInd, with friends like that to help out, the 2 shows I’ve seen this year have been high quality.
The new songs mentioned, Inside out, Possession, Home, Sugar and the dynamic take on Feeling Good, shows we’re going to get a fantastic new album soon.