If you enjoy watching a true professional re-working some of the classics and mixing them in with his own self-written observations of life, then the Steve Gibbons Band will give you a night you sure won't forget in a hurry.
Steve Gibbons has fronted bands for over 35 years and the four musicians who work alongside him now make up one of the tightest bands I've heard in a long, long time. Within five minutes of opening you just know that you're listening to a man who knows his subject - and that subject is rock and roll. He kicked off with a great, but very unusual, rendition of Chuck's "You Can't Catch Me" and followed this with his personal tribute to Elvis, taken from his new "Birmingham to Memphis" album, "Memphis Flash". The song, semi-narrated tells the accurate story of Presley's first visits to the Sun Studio, and I love the line where, immediately after he tells of Elvis, Scotty and Bill fooling around with "That's All Right", Sam Phillips was heard to yell "Don't stop!" because, in Gibbons' words, "He'd Found The Holy Grail".
Steve talks his way easily through his numbers and if I had to describe his style I would say it lies somewhere between Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler, with superb backing that owes as much to the likes of Ry Cooder as it does to Berry or Holly. Many bands can be described as laid-back, but The Steve Gibbons Band takes the meaning to the extreme, almost defying the enthusiastic audience to get too excited.
Songs such as Holly's "Well... All Right" and the Sonny Curtis/Jerry Allison classic "More Than I Can Say" featured Afro-Carribean rhythms and I particularly enjoyed "Big J.C." and "The Train", both of which were new to my ears. Gibbons has a very appealing knack of adding part lines or part phrases to his songs, and during "The Train" I detected snatches of "People Get Ready", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Mystery Train" and "Proud Mary"! After a lengthy introduction, which had nothing to do with the original version, the band reworked Chuck Berry's "Nadine", disguising the number with rythm patterns that by rights should not have been there. A self-written song that sounded as though it came from the Leiber & Stoller songbook and should have been a smash for The Coasters was greeted with huge applause, as was the funky title track from an earlier album, "On The Loose".
If you can picture the effect of superb twin guitarists, both using bottlenecks, fronting a drummer and a bassist who had found the groove on the first number of the evening and then improved on it, you might have some idea of the sounds that were going on behind Steve's voice on numbers such as "The Natural Thing", "Harley Davidson" and the excellent "He Gave His Life To Rock n Roll". Gibbons tried to close his 90-minute set with his 1977 hit revival of Chuck Berry's "Tulane", but the attentive, and by now very excited, audience brought the band back on stage to round things off with "Chuck In My Car" and "Like A Rolling Stone".
This was the first time I had ever seen The Steve Gibbons Band. I went to Rotherham with an open mind. I'll be scanning the music press to find out when I can see them again.
The Tawe Delta Blues Club - (June 13th 2006)
EVERY man, woman or child who wants to make music should have been at the Tawe Delta Blues Club on Tuesday (13 June) to witness the awe-inspiring masterclass that is Steve Gibbons.
Looking part medicine man, part debonair, supper-club crooner, part Jamesons-for-breakfast rocker, Gibbons channels the essence of riveting performance that gave Elvis his electricity, Chuck Berry his knowing mastery and Dinah Washington her verve.
The show was more an evangelical tent-show than a gig, and with the way in which he and the band summoned up the spirits of the greats, it might have been a seance. Classics from Ray Charles (Let's Go and Get Stoned), Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and early Elvis (Trying to Get to You), were intertwined with Gibbons's own pulsing material, which genuflects to those visionary architects of rock'n'roll.
He is a willing slave to that rock'n'roll rhythm (he named his daughter Nadine, for crying out loud), but Gibbons is not a retro act, reliving past glories or grieving for a long-gone golden age, he is a scholar of great music and he carries the weight of knowledge that gives him the kind of unassailable authority to slip into a Johnny Mercer song as deftly as he kicks into Dylan's Rainy Day Women No 12 and 35.
Whether draping his arms wearily on his guitar, or enacting scenes with face and hands, he links songs with a malevolent-voiced rap that would have Allen Ginsberg, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan howling and back-slapping.
The band reads his every twitch and follows him like a leopard shadowing a springbok, to a man they play to the hilt, with discipline, precision and flair, and much of the time they perform with grins stretched across their faces. We were all in the presence of greatness.
Kate Lay (South Wales Evening Post)