Mike Andersen was very stoic about it when I met him at the bar before his first ever gig in Cologne at the Yardclub. “The Champions League Final on TV this evening? Yes, I know” He sighed. A packed house was clearly not going to round off the final date of a successful European Tour. Those who preferred watching Messi, Neymar and co missed an excellent show though – including the not quite a total surprise of a surprise guest appearance by Layla Zoe.
I was a little uncertain I have to say about the show. Mike Andersen has a superb new CD out currently called ‘Home’ It is though, if you recall from my REVIEW, not necessarily the stuff of which a live concert is made. I was reckoning without the big Dane’s punchy backing band though…
Kicking off with the album’s opener ‘Water my Plants’ it was obvious straight away that this band has been tour trained. They have a perfect knowledge of where everyone is going with each song and Andersen gives them plenty of room to play around within the confines of each number. He’s so tall in fact that it seems like he can look over the shoulder of every band member wherever they may be located onstage.
This is no Bluesrock combo I should add, They can play Blues and they can Rock when it’s needed, but one of the evening’s delights for me was hearing the thick, chunky sound of Andersen’s semi-hollow Gibson 347. It gave the music a warm, jazzy tone that perfectly suits the bridge between Blues and Soul which is where the Mike Andersen Band is most at home.
Indeed we had a number dedicated to Ray Charles who is a hero for Andersen – and returning to my love of those big Gibson guitars, Andersen recently played a set with Henrich Freischlader in memory of one of the top exponents of these models – a certain BB King and his virtually life-long partner ‘Lucille’. There’s not a lot anyone can do about the footie taking away likely punters but what Mike Andersen CAN and DOES do is repay us with great music despite the disappointing turn-out for taking the trouble to come out to see him – A Gentleman from head to toe, which is a long way on this guy.
Most of the new CD get’s a play and it’s good solid stuff too. I get the feeling a liitle mid-set that this is a Rock concert in reverse and rather than there be a couple of down-tempo numbers to break the evening up in this case it seems like the up-tempo ones are the exception. Much as I like ‘Raindrop After a Drought’ and it’s ‘Clapton acoustic phase’ meandering I most love it when the band Rock out, or more accurately in their case, groove out.
‘City of Sin’ has a down ‘n’ dirty air about it that swaggers nicely around the hall and then hits a tempo that gets feet tapping, hands clapping, and finally my mind saying thank you that I talked my body out of staying at home. THIS is why I came out this evening. Live music that sounds alive! From musicians who would play for nothing and no one because playing music is in their souls.
Talking of musicians who play as if their souls are on the line brings me nicely to the evenings worst kept secret – a guest appearance by Canada’s (and my!) darling of the Blues, Miss Layla Zoe. It’s difficult to keep your secret a secret when it’s down the front dancng with the rest of us. But hey people, would we want Layla any other way?!
I remember seeing a nervous man walking up and down the corridor at Haus Mullestümpe only the day before, working out his voice nervously before going in front of the audience at Bonn Folk Club. All it takes this evening is Mike Andersen to say Layla’s name and she’s stepped from down front to boogieing UP front on stage to n energy packed version of ‘Walking Blues’. It’s an old classic of course but it seemed like Layla was just plucking lyrics out of her head for it. Like she’d just had these thoughts and it was the most natural thing in the world to sing them here and now. Definitely a place to use the ‘M’ word: MAGIC pure.
You could almost feel the extra energy left onstage after Layla stepped back down. ‘Stoned’ was how I felt after that, and also the title of one of the evenings best numbers – Ray Charles would have loved this one for it’s lounge bar atmosphere. I was only on my second beer but after the band had finished I felt like I’d finished a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. The power of music indeed!
Great backbeat on ‘Who’s Cheating Who’ from Jens Kristian Dam and a guitar that made me think this is how a young BB King would have sounded. The two Kristians, Fogh and Kold on keys and bass respectively share not just a fore-name but also a common groove and you know what? B*gg*r the football and Lionel Messi, this was where it was at on Saturday night if you genuinely love great music – No pretension, simply great music from people who love playing it as much as we love to hear it.
By now Mike Andersen will be back on the porch pictured on his ‘Home’ CD cover, watering the plants mentioned in the title track. Does music get any more genuine than that?