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Concert Review by Nick Morgan


The 100 Club, London
April 6th 2008

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but although it’s officially British Summer Time it’s been snowing in London for much of the day (more misery at our brave new Terminal 5) and it is simply freezing cold. I reckon it’s about twenty-five degrees in New Orleans, so it will be interesting to see how much of the heat Englishman John Cleary, for many years a N'awlins resident, has brought with him from the Big Easy.

Jon Cleary
He’s a busy man. Perhaps best known as pianist and composer for Taj Mahal, he’s in the middle of a short European tour with his band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, getting back home, I’m very glad to say, in time for a gig at the Tulane Crawfish Boil (mmm!). He’s then touring as pianist with Bonnie Raitt before returning with his band to Europe and in particular London in the summer, when he’ll be playing a gig at the ghastly Pigalle Club. Maybe he likes to come over to see his family – he was born in the picturesque village of Cranbrook in Kent not far from London. And in fact I wonder if the reason that the place is so packed isn’t because half his family are crammed with us into the 100 Club. It’s certainly a big crowd for a ‘little known’ (my assumption) artist, with a surprisingly young and feminine feel to it.
The Absolute Monster Gentlemen are Cornell C Williams on bass, the wonderfully syncopated Eddie Christmas on drums, and on (mostly) Fender Telecaster, Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins, who without being disrespectful is not the sort of guy you’d like to see taking the seat next to yours on a ‘plane (or a bus, cinema, park bench etc.). On a serious note – his size does not prepare you for the delicacy of his playing, particularly on the Caribbean and calypso infused ‘Zulu Strut’ (which can be found on Cleary’s 2004 album Pin Your Spin) where he duets with Cleary on guitar, or during his big solo on ‘Help me somebody’. But for the most part he plays behind Cleary who leads with his forceful keyboards which display a variety of influences from the classical New Orleans style of Professor Longhair through to more contemporary R&B. We get one Taj Mahal tune – ‘21st Century Gypsy singin’ lover man’, which Cleary co-wrote, but sadly not the wonderful ‘Cheatin’ on you’, which he also wrote. And as the band play they swing from New Orleans stomp-style such as ‘Go to the Mardi Gras’ to a more accomplished Average White Band, particularly with Big D’s backing vocals to Cleary’s gravelly lead.
Derwin and Cornell
Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins and Cornell C Williams
Needless to say Christmas’s drumming was at the heart of almost everything, and was showcased, appropriately enough, on ‘Second line’.
Jon CLeary
John Cleary
Check Jon Cleary's MySpace page for some very good music
By this time the temperature had been predictably over-adjusted, so the evening ended with us wading in pools of sweat and beer as Cleary finished with ‘Help me somebody’, ‘Groove me’, and ‘When you get back’, all of which, in the very same order, can be found on his new (and recommended) live album ‘Mo hippa’. And it was then that something very strange happened. With an audience totally engrossed in the music no one noticed the phalanx of burly blue-track-suited Chinese guys who jogged down the stairs, with what looked like promoter Jim Driver in their midst clutching a flaming torch, pushed past the backs of the crowd and out through the fire-exit by the entrance to the malodorous Gent’s urinals. Stranger than truth? Hardly. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs

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