Blues In The North West

John O'Leary & Sugarkane
Johnnies Blues Club
Fogerty's, Liverpool

8th February 2014
  " there are some shows that exceed all  expectations and enter the category of  unforgettable. This performance of John  O’Leary’s Sugarkane was a prime example of  that rare phenomenon .................. a truly  memorable night".

Enjoyment is guaranteed at any gig organised by John and Lorraine Welsh but there are some shows that exceed all expectations and enter the category of unforgettable. This performance of John O’Leary’s Sugarkane was a prime example of that rare phenomenon.

The whole band exudes quality: from the two guitarists, Jules Fothergill and Steve Wright, keyboard player, Jools Grudgings, the rhythm section of drummer Joachim Greve and bass guitarist Jim Reece and the maestro himself, John O’Leary, on vocals and harmonica.

The extravaganza was unleashed with a lively instrumental before John O’Leary entered the fray on a harp-led, slightly Latin-flavoured Elmore James number. Junior Wells’s “Snatch It Back And Hold It” then got the full treatment with a lovely keyboard solo from Jools Grudgings and a splendid bass line from Jim Reece. A terrific version of the traditional favourite, “Early In The Morning” featured a fabulous guitar solo from Jules Fothergill and an equally impressive delivery of “Little By Little” bounced along to close the first set with Fothergill, Grudgings and Steve Wright all contributing brilliantly to the mix.

To open the second set, Steve Wright assumed lead vocals on Robben Ford’s “Help The Poor”, adding a superb guitar solo and engaging in an effective guitar-based interplay with Jules Fothergill. John O’Leary then returned to the stage to play some tasty harp on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin’”, which also provided another fine keyboard solo and a gem from Jules Fothergill that drifted seamlessly in and out of “Summertime”.

Just as they were thinking that it couldn’t get any better than this, the audience were treated to an unscheduled delight when the wonderful Connie Lush was invited on stage to raise the bar even higher. She obliged with a terrific rendition of “Love Me Like A Man”, provoking a rapturous response from the thoroughly appreciative audience.

A funky airing of “I Don’t Need No Doctor” then led to the highlight of the evening, an incredible version of “Black Cat Bone”, which featured a superlative cameo from the rhythm section, combining an exceptional bass guitar solo from Jim Reece and a phenomenal drum solo from Joachim Greve that went into overdrive and brought the house down.

The loudly demanded encore eased between “Look On Yonders Wall” and “Help Me”, with Connie Lush joining in, and was greeted with a standing ovation that was rewarded with a suitably vibrant coda in the form of “Let It Shine”, with Jules Fothergill on lead vocals, to end a truly memorable night.