Blues In The North West

John O'Leary & Sugarkane

26th May 2012 

at Fogerty's, Liverpool

 "    the individual and collective artistry of the band creates a sumptuous auditory experience that you don’t want to end"

Despite the overwhelming competition offered by television – Engelbert Humperdinck in the Eurovision Song Contest and an England football match – Fogherty’s Function Room was packed with an enthusiastic audience to welcome John O’Leary’s Sugarkane back to the city. Remarkably and coincidentally, in both of the alternative cases, England triumphed over Norway – by one goal to nil and by finishing next to bottom of the points table respectively. It should also be made clear that the singer’s name does not spell ‘knickerlegtrumblebum’ as rumoured by the gig’s MC.

Before John O’Leary’s entrance, the band began proceedings by playing a lively instrumental, which afforded each band member the opportunity to display his very considerable musical talents. John then joined the party on the rumba-rhythmed “Born In Chicago”, adding his warm-toned harp to the mix. “Snatch It Back And Hold It” then provided stand-in bass guitarist Neil Segrott the chance to showcase his impressive ability before “Early In The Morning” featured a fabulous keyboard solo from Jools Grudgings and mesmerising dexterity from guitarists, Jules Fothergill and Steve Wright, all ruthlessly driven by the outstanding rhythm section.

Steve Wright delivered vocals on “Help The Poor” to open the second set. John O’Leary then made his customary delayed entrance to lead the fray on a splendid version of “She’s Nineteen Years Old”, which included a tasty harp solo, in preparation for a rousing rendition of “Black Cat Bone”, which boasted a fantastic drum solo from Joachim Greve and another bass guitar cameo. The set was concluded with a tremendous trilogy that comprised “Help Me”, “Look On Yonder’s Wall” and an unannounced third number, which prompted a deafening demand for an encore. In response, Jules Fothergill assumed vocal duty on “Let The Love Light Shine”, the conclusion of which was greeted with a richly deserved standing ovation.

So, in a performance of nearly two hours, the band had completed just eight numbers, ten if the constituents of the trilogy are counted separately. That statistic applied to a lesser band would almost certainly provoke an accusation of self-indulgence. In the case of Sugarkane, on the other hand, the individual and collective artistry of the band creates a sumptuous auditory experience that you don’t want to end. It’s what separates the men from the boys.

Lionel Ross