It only took a couple of songs on the headphones at my local CD store to decide I wanted not just the CD but also to see Thorbjorn Risager live. Could he match the gravelly jazz Blues drive of the disc onstage? You bet, and much more…
It seemed like half of the Bluesrock loving world was at E-Werk for the JJ Grey/Tedeschi Trucks extravaganza the night before. That and a Thursday night start suggested a small turnout, but Risager has a name for good music in the neighbourhood and by show start it’s pleasantly full in the Harmonie. Enough room to grab a beer and a dance if the fancy took you – and this band had the grooves to make it take you.
Thorbjorn Risager has two heroes – BB King and Ray Charles. Both are in his veins and in his music. His CD cover has something of the Frank Sinatra meets Robbie Williams about it, and his onstage persona has a relaxed style that, together with the hat, makes me think of Eric Bibb. A mixed bag visually for sure. Mixed musically too as soon became evident.
Risager has a great Rock Blues voice with echoes of Muddy Waters in his delivery. He growls his gravelly way through some classics along the evening’s way, but his own material is pretty good too. ‘Through The Tears’ is a glorious soul track. ‘If You Wanna Leave’ rumbled along majestically on the back of Peter Skjerning’s excellent bottleneck riffing . Skjerning and his Edwards guitar were for my money co-stars of the show, as on the down home simplicity and power of ‘Too Many Roads’ that could easily have been a Muddy Waters track. Indeed, that was the best facet of the evening to me – Hearing tracks like Muddy’s ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ and BB’s ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ sound as fresh and full of fire as they must have sounded when those two legends were playing them in their prime.
Don’t run away with the idea this was purely a Blues show though. A highlight was Nat King Cole’s ‘China Gate’ with it’s downtrodden, bleak atmospherics and Risager’s whiskey stained tonsils haunting the stage from opening note to last. The excellent horn section provided a rich jazz carpet for ‘Paradise’ that had me wondering if there weren’t at least two more of them behind the curtains. There was even a tasty slice of reggae in the hypnotic lumbering beat of ‘Drowning’.
It was an evening when the music did the talking. Risager himself could only say that the Country, the City and indeed the venue and audience, were “Sehr Gut!” and even dispensing the MC duties around the band between songs didn’t reveal anyone with a natural talent for oratory – it did however reveal that these guys are a BAND and not just backing musicians. Not that there was any doubt about that fact on the basis of their tightness.
Thorbjorn Risager and his band the Black Tornado are now signed to RUF Records but rather like Dana Fuchs I can’t imagine a Blues Caravan spot for their leader. This is a Man and a Band that should be heard together – and often! It’s not every evening that I see fellow photographers with their cameras stowed away after an hour because they’re enjoying the music too much to chase poses. Is that a high compliment for Thorbjen Risager? I think so.
This is the sort of band that gets booked by unwary festival promoters as an early evening support only to discover they’ve stolen the show by 8pm. If you haven’t seen them yet, do. If you haven’t booked them yet, do, and if you have any doubts, get a copy of ‘Too Many Roads’ and the doubts will be gone. Worried about pronouncing that name when asking for the disc? CLICK HERE.
Okay, now there’s no excuse!!!
Enjoy the CD and see you at the next show by Thorbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado.