“Sing along if you recognize this one!” Laurence Jones calls out, before launching into a powerful version of the John Fogerty classic ‘Fortunate Son’ at Bonn Harmonie on Monday. Those present were indeed fortunate, this really was a devastating performance from the acclaimed British ‘Blueser’, truly live music from the heart and soul. For his last appearance here with Blues Caravan in 2014 Laurence Jones was just a youngster with star potential under the RUF Records roster, at 27 though he has very definitely made the step up to Premier League status.
Stars can be Divas of course but it’s not something I would expect from Laurence. The fact that it’s well past 8 pm and still no sign of the Band is more likely down to health issues – Laurence is a Morbus-Crohns sufferer. Whatever the reason, With a finish time written in stone as 10 pm, we are clearly not going to get a long set. Maybe they were waiting out more late arrivals. It’s not a big audience, neither is it a very small one. There is a big enough crowd to create a good atmosphere but plenty of breathing (or even dancing) space. Is there any point playing gigs on a Monday unless you are a mega-star? For most musicians, it’s probably a day for getting enough money for gas to the next, more lucrative, gig.
When the band finally hit the stage it’s with a song that has the somewhat ironic title of ‘I’m Waiting’. I have been waiting for this moment quite a while too. My last visit to a Laurence Jones concert was in2014 (in Portsmouth, England) and clearly a lot has changed. Missing is the amiable and talented Roger Inniss with his huge 5 string bass. In his place Jack Alexander Timmis from top UK Band Virgil & The Accelerators. Timmis shares, like Inniss, not just a similar name, but a similar style. Keeping the groove and keeping in the background. Also new onboard to me are Phil Wilson on drums and Bennett Holland on keyboards. Augmenting his familiar trio formation (and a sign of the new diversity in Jones’ set) is the addition of Abbi Adigun-Hameed as a backing vocalist. New too for Jones are a beard, a logo, and a whole new CD called simply ‘The Laurence Jones Band’. Let the show begin…
‘Wipe Those Tears Dry’ is a pop styled number of which I found too many on the previous release. On the new disc though, it’s an enjoyable outing as part of many other styles. A jaunty song to get the feet tapping, and already there are some dancers taking advantage of the breathing space and beat that the excellent band of musicians Jones has put together is laying down.
Probably the nicest surprise on that score was the contribution by Bennett Holland. Glorious swirling Hammond, and bar-room piano sounds, from a man who is clearly enjoying his place in the band and the freedom that Laurence gives him in each song to shine. His contribution to ‘Quite Like You’ was worth the admission fee alone. Certainly a rival to Bob Fridzema in my mind for the title of best British keyboarder. Speaking of rivals, any young ladies charmed by Laurence’s warm and friendly style should be aware that his heart is elsewhere – A 1964 Stratocaster in Olympic white nicknamed ‘Blondie’ to be precise. He certainly had no trouble coaxing the said ‘Blondie’ to sing her heart out. No more so than on the Dylan penned Hendrix classic ‘All Along The Watchtower’. A chance for guitarist and guitar to really go wild after the controlled playing that Jones exhibited otherwise – his usual style being to complement rather than dominate the songs themselves. On that score too I was impressed with the lead vocals. Up to now, the guitar has been the dominant feature of a Laurence Jones live gig, but not anymore as both the songs and the vocals get stronger.
Backing vocalist Abbi Adigun-Hameed was a clear sign of the development in Laurence’s music towards servicing the songs themselves. Her silky, soulful, tones lend the songs an extra depth and her happy smiling face is a mood changer in itself. How can you not enjoy great music when the music makers are so enjoying it too?
“This one you might know. It’s from a band out of Liverpool” announces Jones. “I’m from Liverpool too, so it’s appropriate!” he says with a smile. By songs end, everyone is smiling. It wasn’t a complicated song, it wasn’t rocket science, it was ‘Day Tripper’, simply pop music at it’s best and played with such enthusiasm that you’d swear they just decided on it on the spur of the moment – if you didn’t know it was on the new disc of course.
In fact, pretty well all of the music this evening was from the new release, and proof of how strong that disc is too because the evening never lagged or lost momentum. Which isn’t to say it was all foot on the pedal Blues-rock. ‘Beautiful Place’, inspired by Laurence’s brother is a slow-burning gospel-style Blues, whilst ‘Long, Long, Lonely Ride’ was a chance to change pace and bring out an acoustic guitar. As a Rock ballad, Laurence made one of his few deviations to early releases with “One of the first songs I ever wrote” ‘Thunder In The Sky’.
By the time we got to that fabulous version of ‘Fortunate Son’ I was cursing the late start and the certainty that a great evening’s music was coming, reluctantly, to an end. Just time enough indeed for an encore with the hard-driving ‘Live It Up’ before the stage is bare again. One of those concerts that asks the question we’ve all asked now and again in our concert-going lives – Why can’t they just keep on playing? Who cares about live music laws or pub licensing? We’re having a great time and so is the band!
After a slight glitch with the previous release, Laurence Jones is back at the top of his game and with a marvellous band to back him up. If you haven’t seen Laurence play in a while, check him out when he’s back in town, and if he isn’t back in your town any time soon, then buy the new CD. The story goes that in his final study year in Birmingham Laurence instead went out on tour with Johnny Winter and Walter Trout. I can’t think of anyone better to study than those two for a career in Blues Rock. Needless to say, he passed with flying colours (his University grade is not recorded).