I will consider myself fortunate if I can maintain clean drawers when I’m 82. At that age John Mayall puts on a live show beyond comprehension and releases new music. Really, he doesn’t need to. He’s already made an indelible mark on the music universe as The Godfather of British Blues.
Mayall’s new release is a studio album of his own songs and some blues classics entitled “Find a Way to Care”. It was recorded at the House of Blues Studios in Encino. His keyboard playing is featured prominently on this release. There is less of his trademark harp . But there was plenty of Mayall harp action during this two hour live show. This great musician who could rest on his laurels seems more energized than ever on this tour, as if he’s on a mission.
Let us digress. John Mayall sat at a piano for the first time at age 14, mastered the guitar, then the harp. So all you parents paying for piano lessons for your pre-schooler … so sorry. Either you have it, or you don’t. By the time Mayall was thirty, he gave up his day job and formed the Bluesbreakers. Through that band passed such greats as Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Andy Fraser, and Mick Taylor. The entire list of Mayall collaborators reads like a Who’s Who of modern music.
Now back to the show. Bill Carter (of Bill Carter and The Blame) was the opening act. I know. I said the same thing. Who? Carter is apparently a household name in Austin. When I think Austin, James McMurtry and the Continental Club come to mind. A quick online search told me that Carter will be playing the Continental Club two days after this Variety show. Hmmmm. Well, Carter was no McMurtry and maybe he would have sounded better with The Blame for support. It was just Bill, an acoustic guitar, and a harmonica. I was impressed that his tunes have been recorded by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Palmer, John Mayall (yep) and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bill played Crossfire, which he wrote, and was made famous by SRV. His set was 45 minutes. I guess Bill is a better songsmith than performer.
John Mayall came onstage to a raucous welcome. If the Variety Playhouse wasn’t sold out, it was damn close to it. Mayall was tight on a variety of keys, guitar, harp, and of course vocals. I don’t know how he does it, but Mayall transitions from harp to vocals to harp with no gaps. You don’t even hear him inhale. And he is never out of breath. The show was two hours long, covering decades of material, and Mayall stood for the whole show. He was even standing at the keyboards!
There were a number of selections from the new album. These same musicians on stage at the Variety also performed on this album, and jammed as tight as Mayall. They are Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, and Jay Davenport on drums. A fan shouted out “Congratulations” to Mayall early in the show. This was a reference to Mayall being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame just last month. All I can say is “What took so long?”.
Losing a set list would be out of character for me, but I managed to do just that. I will dig deep into my cerebrum, as well as consult friends who attended and reconstruct an accurate set list. Then I will edit. Please see below.
Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.
3/26/2016 Addendum from Rocky Athas via Facebook:
Lots of you ask about the set list and it may surprise you that EVERY SINGLE NIGHT John Mayall writes a new one! This is just one night on this tour. Never the same show twice. It is always something “old”, something “new”, something “borrowed” and ALL BLUES!