Judge Bill Gibron definitely did not get the blues before or after this amazing concert celebration.
A little over the hill, but definitely not out of the game.
For many, John Mayall was and shall forever remain an artform purist. He's a torchbearer, a musician solely dedicated to his craft who never changed his genre stripes in nearly five decades of absolute performance excellence. From the earliest incarnations of what would eventually become The Bluesbreakers to his role as the grand old Englishman of the American artform, his dedication and determination influenced a myriad of would-be musicians. He's also the noted conduit for many of our greatest side and showmen, from the amazing Mick Taylor and members of Fleetwood Mac to the seminal "God" of the guitar, Eric Clapton. In celebration of his staying power and his lifetime in service of Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and his own unique songwriting perspective, Eagle Rock Entertainment is releasing this 2003 showcase featuring Mayall and a few of the famous faces he's influenced. For over two hours, these flawless sonic supermen deliver an almost unstoppable collection of staples, originals, and retrofitted faves—and never once do you question their age or ability.
For those curious about the set list, here is a rundown of the songs and situations offered:
"Southside Story"—John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
There are a few amazing things about this collaborative jam, and the first one is fairly obvious. This concert acknowledges the fact that, at the time (circa 2003), Mayall was turning 70 years old. 70! Frankly, all septuagenarians should look so spry. Bouncing around the stage, picking up random instruments (guitar, keyboard) and banging out accomplished solos and rhythm work, Mayall is clearly cruising like someone a third of his age. His energy is just boundless and he is supported soundly by yet another smart incarnation of the Bluesbreakers. Even more impressive are the guests. Longtime Rolling Stones fans will be relieved to see Mick Taylor looking very good indeed, delivering excellent guitar work on the five numbers he sits in on. Seeing Barber is also interesting, since you don't expect a trombone to be part of the overall blues experience. And Clapton—well, what can be said, really. Without showing up his former boss, or belittling the moment with his own unique star quality, he acts as both tribute and troubadour with the greatest of 'slowhand' ease.
But for fans of the following, don't come looking for Mayall and company to deliver a bunch of radio friendly tunes. This is not a hit parade, but a genre lover's paradise. Tracks like "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Oh, Pretty Woman" are wonderful in their retro groove appeal, and originals like "Dirty Water" and "Blues for the Lost Days" show that he could create 'em as good as he could cover 'em. Many may not know that Mayall was an accomplished composer. His own songs pushed the boundaries of the artform, utilizing pop, jazz, and rock influences to make the style something wholly his own. The Liverpool audience obviously loves every minute of the musical celebration. Young and old, newcomer and faithful follower, there is a palpable appreciate for something that's quite unusual in today's auto-tune technology—artists who can actually sing and play. Even the opportunity to hear Mayall blow nuts on his harmonica is enough to stir this crowd into a frenzy. It's the same sensation you will feel as part of this stellar live concert.
Eagle Rock Entertainment, once again, does a magnificent job with the high definition tech specs—the most important one being aural reproduction. The DTS HD Master Audio is marvelous, loaded with depth and aural space. The crowd is buried deep in the mix, so the live concert experience is somewhat underwhelming, but the overall attention to sonic detail, including the separation between the guitars and Mayall, is just amazing. There are also LPCM Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but if you can, stick with the DTS. It is definitive. Visually, the concert itself is equally impressive. The 1080i widescreen image (1.78:1) is gorgeous, with an abundance of detail and a stunning sense of immediacy. As we marvel at how well Mayall looks, the HD image keeps his secrets of longevity in check. The man appears as ageless as his music is timeless. Toss in a interview featurette (good) and three songs by the Bluesbreakers sans their leader (excellent) and you have a great Blu-ray package.
Believe it or not, Mayall is out on tour as we speak. That's right, now 76 and still going strong, the man is playing a set of dates throughout the UK and Europe. While many of his peer have long since retired—or worse, made more permanent plans for the rest of their career, Mayall seems unstoppable. Anyone wanting some insight into the source of such endless energy need look no further than this 2003 salute. At 70, Mayall and company were still capable of blowing an audience away. This document of such sonic power will definitely do the same to you.
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