Concert Review – John Mayall

That grainy picture above is from my camera phone. Mouse over it – or any of my pics – and you’ll get color. That’s Mayall of course, dead center playing one of three instruments (keys, harp, guitar). To his left, guitarist Ricky Athas, bass Greg Rzab, somewhat hidden is drummer Jay Davenport.

Mayall is one of the last of that cohort of British bluesmen who were part of the blues vortex that was Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. According to Wikipedia, Korner persuaded Mayall to opt for a full-time musical career and move to London, where Korner introduced him to many other musicians and helped Mayall to find gigs.

Ultimately Mayall went on to form the highly influential band Bluesbreakers who in their own way, were every bit as impactful as The Yardbirds. The seminal album from that time is called Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton aka the Beano album. That said, the album they’re touring behind – the recently released John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Live in 1967 –  featured Peter Green.

The band sounded great but I thought that Mayall’s voice had lost some power. The blues genre demands that you have a strong, strong voice up front and he didn’t have it. That said, I will cut him a break. I want you to note that the video below is from 2012 when Mayall was EIGHTY YEARS OLD. (When I’m 80 I plan on sitting on the couch and yelling at kids to get off my damn lawn).

I can tell you that while Mayall is not exactly running around the stage these days, he stood up for the whole show, going back and forth from keyboard to harp to guitar.  He could certainly sit down for keyboard but he chooses not to.

Anyway, check this out. Same band, filmed live a couple of years ago. It’s called “The Sum of Something.” Athas continues Mayall’s long trend of featuring outstanding guitarists:

Mayall’s signature song is one he released back in the ’70’s on a live album. It’s called “Room to Move.” Didn’t do it when I saw him but what the hell. Same band

One of the nice things about these shows – especially when I go alone – is that I always wind up talking to people. (Actually they usually wind up talking to me). We were sitting at a shared table and there were as many people by themselves as with someone. (If we have learned one thing at our age it’s that if you wait for others to share your interests you’ll spend a lot of time sitting at home and miss a lot of good stuff).

One of my tablemates – who had bought himself an entire bottle of wine – clued me in to Mayall’s 70th birthday party album. Apparently Clapton and Mick Taylor –  also a Mayall protege – played on it. It’s pretty damn good so I’m stealing a track from that. Here’s Mick on “Somebody’s Acting Like a Child.”

John,  thanks for all the blues and I look forward to your 90th birthday album.

11 thoughts on “Concert Review – John Mayall

  1. I do love me some of that Blues Breakers with Clapton album…great playing.
    I think that album along with the debut Paul Butterfield Blues Band album is the peak of white man blues 😉

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  2. Went to see John Mayall last night 10-13-16 just to be definitive. Realizing that John is 82, the concert was OK. I have see other “older” musicians like Tony Bennett @ 90, Eric Burden @75, and Gatemouth Brown @ 81. One this I always appreciated is that they all managed to hold up to their heritage by surrounding themselves with quality musicians. Don’t get me wrong the drummer and bass player Greg Rzab and Jay Davenport are good but Greg is a Jaco Pastorious style and Jay is more funk. All in all the concert was repetitious with bass solos – drum solos – and John playing the same song on guitar over and over just with different names.
    I have been going to see him since 1968, and I appreciate that he has introduced me to some of the greatest guitarists from Mick Taylor to Buddy Whittington – It seemed like every time I went to see him there was a progression in the quality of music and the players. I was really looking forward to seeing who he had up his sleeve for this tour and I was truly disappointed! I still had him sign a CD for me and shook his hand but it will probably be the last time, this makes the 23rd time I have seen him since ’68!

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    1. 23 times! Holy cow. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody that many times. I admit I went to see him as much because of his legend as anything. But it sounds like you have a better long-term gauge of his sound than I do. Probably time to put him on the shelf, eh? Anyway, thanks for the review and gor visiting my corner of the blogosphere.

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  3. I’m making my way to your new EC posts but again how appropriate i stumble onto John Mayall. Great post Jim. CB goes back to ‘Turning Point’ ( a fave ). Amazing he’s still doing it. Last time i saw him he had Harvey Mandel on guitar. Great show. Again, posts like this keep Babyhead coming back to the trough.

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    1. Glad you’re here. I have precious few followers who know – or care about – much of the classic stuff. One of my very knowledgeable boomer readers had to sign off for a while. So I’ll try to keep writing stuff that will make you want to come back.

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        1. Trust me. I have no intention of playing to the masses. I’m happy with the punkers and younger kids that follow. But I figure if I keep pumping out the other stuff, well, if you build it they will come. Which, BTW, have you written about that movie?

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        2. You always get down to your take on the music with some good tid bits for lazy asses like CB. Watched it a while ago. Same as the music I’m kinda going in chronological order with the flicks. Loved some of the cinematography in it, also Liotta’s Shoeless Joe and Lancaster’s bit.

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  4. We travelled to Munich from the UK to see John Mayall 27th Feb ,A wonderful surprise birthday present from my girlfriend. Shocked and disappointed there was no guitar player, with respect guitar was never Johns forte and the songs he played guitar for were indeed pub blues jam standard and considering he was the conduit for so many great guitarists from Eric Clapton to Mick Taylor and Buddy Whittington a guitarist of even mediocre ability was sorely missed. For an man of his advanced years he played harp and keys pretty well..but this gig smacked of someone raising some cash rather than the man with a great band giving it all.. ..his voice held up ok but again this was a less than average evening. I will always admire respect and cherish his contribution to music..but would’ve liked to have remembered a great gig instead of this ‘going through the motions’ event.

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  5. Yeah, that’s a shame. We at least had this guy Ricky Athas on guitar who was pretty good. As to going through the motions, that’s exactly how I feel about Dylan these days. Never saw him and now, with how horrible his voice sounds due to reports I’ve heard and seen, I never will. Hey at least we have their records.

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