On the occasion of John Mayall’s 70th Birthday, the
father of the British blues boom held a special concert at Liverpool
docks on July 19th, 2003. Thankfully the concert was recorded for
posterity, as it is - without doubt - the finest British blues album in
The music kicks off with a couple of numbers from the
Bluesbreakers minus their illustrious leader. Although this sets the
standards for the rest of the night already very high, things really
start to cook when the great man arrives and whips out his harmonica for
their third song. After a few more numbers the festivities truly begin
with the introduction of Mick Taylor on lead guitar. Now remember, Mick
Taylor originally made his name with the Bluesbreakers before he was
poached away by the glimmer twins for a five year stint as a Rolling
Stone. Mick Taylor has certainly lost none of his chops and leads the
ensemble through a riotous collection of blues and boogie.
Then Mick Taylor leaves the stage to give space to
John Mayall’s most famous prot้g้, a certain Mr. Eric
‘Slowhand’ Clapton. The selection of songs from the seminal John
Mayall and the Bluesbreakers album featuring Eric Clapton let’s one
step back and wonder with awe.
Next up is the inspired inclusion of Chris Barber on
trombone, who sets up some wonderful duels with Clapton. In the late
fifties Chris Barber was responsible for bringing over to the British
shores such artists as ‘Big Bill Broonzy’, Sister Rossetta Tharpe,
Sonny Terry, and the great Muddy Waters. So, who knows what state
British music would be in without the introduction of these American
greats to further inspire the likes of ‘The Beatles’, ‘The
Kinks’, and ‘The Pretty Things’?
Although all these great musicians are on stage, the
actual Bluesbreakers are never overawed. To the contrary, they leave the
featured artist space to excel, none more than to the man himself - John
Mayall. Mayall, entering his eighth decade, shows no sign of slowing
down or losing his amazing abilities.
The concert is brought to a climax with twenty-five
minutes of encores with the entire cast on stage. Everybody fights for
space to solo, but usually politely await their turn. The whole thing
At just over two and a half hours there is not a
moment on this two disc set that is not covered in magic. The concert
was recorded for DVD, which is also available.
It is quite fun to have a look at all the artists who
could have been invited to this show, who have at one time or another
passed through the ranks of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. There’s
Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton’s old running buddy in Cream. The third part
of that particular trio, Ginger Baker, also played with the
Bluesbreakers once, but only sitting in for a jam on the drums. Peter
Green; John McVie; Mick Fleetwood, who left Mayall to form Fleetwood
Mac; Aynsley Dunbar; a fifteen year old Andy Fraser of Free fame, and
Micky Waller. John Hiseman, Tony Reeves, and Dick Heckstall-Smith who
all sneaked off together to form Colosseum. Keef Hartley; Hughie
Flint… Oh! The list is endless, but it does go to show how important
John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers are to British blues.
After a particularly brilliant interchange between
Clapton and Barber, which brings ‘Have You Heard’ to a dramatic
finish, John Mayall shouts from the stage “The blues does not get
better than that”. The man is correct.