John Mayall

John Mayall
Live at Jonathan’s Restaurant

By Lady K
April 2012

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Ogunquit, Maine
February 26, 2012

No, Lady K did not spot John Mayall while he was grabbing a snack! Jonathan’s, a well-known fine-dining restaurant, also has a very nice performance room, upstairs from the restaurant and pub on the ground level. And Jonathan’s grabbed an opportunity to blues-up Southern Maine a bit on Sunday night. While John Mayall was already scheduled to be in New England making the rounds, Jonathan’s booked Mayall . . . the legend . . . the talent . . . the British blues hero. The show was a great decision, because, while the performance area is one room and too large to be considered intimate, there was a cozy feeling not often apparent at the other, bigger venues that tend to book Mayall. The level of anticipation and excitement vibrating from the dedicated blues fans contributed to the heat – it was a feel-good night from start to finish.

Mayall’s traveling band is the same kick-ass group of guys that have been with him since recording the Tough album in 2009: Rocky Athas – guitar; Greg Rzab – bass; Jay Davenport – drums; and of course the man himself on vocals, harmonica and keyboard. Ever seen anyone other than John Mayall hold a harp and a microphone in one hand, play the harp, and play the keyboard with his other hand, at the same time, and make incredible blues music? And, when he wasn’t actually playing the harp, he was singing. It was amazing, but also fitting; you don’t get to be a legend if you don’t do legendary stuff.

When the lights were dimmed, and John Mayall was announced, it was “just” him, heading up onto the stage. He said a few words of welcome (we returned the welcome), and then he “just” stayed alone on stage, with his harp and keyboard, spellbinding (and quieting) the excited crowd with Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Another Man (Done Gone).” With that solo, Mayall held the audience in the palm of his hand for the rest of the night; and everyone was ready for whatever followed. John Mayall announced each member of the band as they joined him on stage, and they got right down with the blues.

The show that followed was a mix of tunes that included some Mayall-written blues, and a selection from some of the great names in blues history; beginning with Otis Rush’s “All Your Love,” recorded by Mayall on the Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album. From the Laurel Canyon album, “The Bear”; and from the Bluesbreakers with Walter Trout, “Chicago Line” which Jay kicked-off with an attention-getting drum introduction, segueing into a rollicking, rocking, blues number with extra emphasis on bass and percussion. Jimmy Lee “the lonely traveler” Robinson’s “All My Life,” the very sexy, slow-down blues breath-taker, contained lengthy, amazing instrumental sections, highlighting each player.

Lady K’s tablemates for the evening (Em and Cheryl), thoroughly enjoyed the J. B. Lenoir tune, “Mama, Talk to Your Daughter,” because Em and Cheryl are Mama and Daughter. The tune had some honky-tonk keyboard, ultimately leading to a rockin-out audience sing-along. Jay kicked off Mayall’s “Long Gone Midnight” with drumming reminiscent of a primal jungle-beat; and Rocky pretty much owned the guitar-heavy Sonny Boy Williams tune “Help Me” – he was scary-terrific.

And then, suddenly, John Mayall was announcing the finale!!! Could the show be over? Somehow, 90+ minutes had vanished in a flurry of amazing blues music. The finale was “California,” another tune from the Laurel Canyon album, which became about a 10-minute blues jam, with the drums and bass absolutely killing the audience. The standing ovation began before the final notes of the tune quieted. The band left the stage, but the audience stayed, demanding more (everyone knows those standing ovations nearly always work; besides if the guys wanted libations, they’d have to get past the audience to get to the bar). So, since John Mayall’s 2007 album In the Palace of the King was a tribute to the great Freddie King, it only seemed right that the ovation should culminate in the band’s return to the stage, offering one more tune – Freddie King’s “Hideaway.”

Lady K has made very little mention of John Mayall’s performance on stage, because he was all over every tune – playing both harp and keyboards and he was the only vocalist. The band was phenomenal, and yet they were back-up to the legend that has attracted fans (old and new, young and not-so) for more than fifty years. His enthusiasm is amazing, and if he is not enjoying every second on that stage, then he’s also a gifted actor. In addition to the instruments and the vocals, he occasionally got so into the music that he jumped up and down; one can only hope that he has as much fun as he gives to the people who flock to his shows. He seems to...

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