In The Loop Magazine’s On The Road Series Presents: Albert Lee live in London at Half Moon Putney For Opening Night’s Residency On The 2018 Tour
February 28th and March 1st
By James Currie
Tuesday night was the first night of legendary country rock guitarists, Albert Lee and new band dubbed, “Electric Band” for their 2018 tour. This is the first time the Grammy Award winner has hit the road with a band since 2014 when he went out on his “Highwayman” tour. This was the first time this new band has played together in the public (not counting the television show appearance on “The Old Grey Whistle Test“ special 30th anniversary show for the BBC, days before).
These two back to back residency gigs were held at the historic British pub, The Half Moon Putney. It’s one of London’s longest running live music venues. They’ve been the home to the Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Who and residency for Elvis Costello just to name a few. It’s a small, intimate place that fits less than 250 people. I’d compare it to The Empty Bottle, Martyr’s or a smaller City Winery in Chicago.
The show was sold out. Both nights. It’s beyond standing room only as some fans who couldn’t get in, just stood out front in the pub section and listened through the doors.
Around 8:30PM, Albert and his band enter the stage. The young 20 something band mates in checkered shirts take their respective positions Ross Spurdle at keyboard, Ben Golding on bass and Ollie Sears on drums as Lee reaches for his signature red Music Man guitar. He fiddles with his Fender amp and greets the mic to address his crowd.
Lee is a very soft spoken chap. Nothing like the volume that comes from his guitar playing. He lets it speak for himself for the most part. He does however get out a few short stories about songs he’s made with others and after playing a Buddy Holly song commented on how quick that one was because songs were only two and a half minutes back in those days. Another point between songs he was tuning up and said, “Sorry for the delay” “I tune because I care”. Going into further discussion talking about the intricacies of a delicately balanced instrument and how hard it is to keep it tuned. These little tidbits are enough to woe the fans and command cheers, smiles and appreciation.
Lee rocks out Americana classics from people he admired as well as bands he helped champion. He’s been a musician for some of the most iconic bands around including The Everly Brothers, Head Hands & Feet and The Crickets as well as solo artists like Eric Clapton, Emmylou Harris and Patty Loveless.
The set tonight included songs from most of these legends. Lee did songs by Fats Domino like, “I’m Ready”, “Restless” by Carl Perkins, “Highwayman” from Jimmy Webb and the fan favorite, “Tear It Up” from Johnny Burnette. One particular highlight was during a rendering of a Buddy Holly song, “Well… Alright”. Lee seemed to channel Holly through voice and his guitar mimicking the American Rock n Roll legend before our very ears.
Albert Lee and His Electric Band were tight. They seemed to gel very well. They laughed and smiled at each other. The music was right on point. We heard Lee’s unmistakable signature guitar picking. He introduced them at one point and told us how this was the first time they’ve all played in front of people barring the television show appearance earlier.
We know Lee is an amazing guitarist but we also learned that he is a pretty good pianist as well. For the second half of the show, Lee sat behind a keyboard and belted out a couple tunes on the digital ebony and ivory keys.
The fans really appreciated the show. Well, all but one couple in the back near the side who couldn’t stop talking to each other during the last half of the second set. It always amazes me how people can disrupt a show. These two were clearly wasted and more interested in hooking up than rocking out. They treated this performance like someone going for a pint at a local bar rather than paying good money to come out a see a legend at work. Aside from hiccups like that, the show was amazing.
One gentleman I sat next to told me that this was the first time he’s seen Albert Lee since 1983. Stating that, yeah he may be a bit greyer, but he still sounds amazing. He went on to say that he’s seen many of Lee’s idols including Carl Perkins and Lee is right up there with them all.
This was such a rare treat to see a living guitar legend in such an intimate space. Lee put himself out there for this. A new band. A new tour. No special guests. Just a man, his guitar and his three piece band.
Albert Lee and his Electric Band ended the night with the Jonny Burnette barn burner, “Tear It Up”. This is one of those songs we really get to experience Lee’s craft. He rails on the guitars like no other.
For more on Albert Lee and his current tour, click here
For photos from the show at The Half Moon Putney, click here
Setlist for Albert Lee live at The Half Moon Putney Feb/March 2018
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