Summer Pops - Mick Hucknall Live Review @ Liverpool Echo Arena (Liverpool) - 01 Jul 2008
Photo By: Elly Roberts
It was always going to be a tricky move going solo, with a tribute night.
Coincidentally, the music of Bobby 'Blue' Bland came full circle - back to Liverpool, well it did for Manchester's blue-eyed soul boy Mick Hucknall. It was at a Liverpool club, Eric's, he first heard Bland's music whilst then playing with his first band the Frantic Elevators. It was never going to be an easy task, because for nigh on 25 years, we've expected a huge volume of Simply Red songs to relish. With SR due to disband in 2009 it was time for Huckers to win us over with his new direction. Despite his immaculate pop credentials, it was still a big gamble, and a drastic one at that. The crowd was probably made up of SR diehards, Soul aficionados, and the plain curious. When you're a multi-millionaire it's must be reasonably easy to make an artistic change. One American asked for Simply Red tickets at the box office, which kind of summed things for many I'm sure. With barely 45 minutes worth of material from 'Tribute To Bobby', you somehow got the feeling that many of the audience, prior to this gig, were unaware of Bland's work. This would probably account for the 'educational' 15 minute docu-film (extracts found on the album's DVD trailer) before the gig started, a good filler for a show we knew wouldn't be much longer than 1 hour 15 minutes, short by his standards. It wasn't a sell out by any standards. The upper tier was sealed off, and there were many empty seats in the ten thousand capacity brand spanking new arena on the Albert Dock. Looking lean and fit in grey suit, blue shirt and sharp tan boots, he was welcomed with the usual fervour of whistles and screams. It was a cool and slow start. Cry Cry Cry's steady beat unfolded with Mick's impeccable voice still in great form as he moved endlessly across the stage, beaming with delight that his die-hard fans had embraced his venture, though there was some uncertainty. He asked them, "How many of you know Bobby Bland's music?" A few hands went up, including mine in the snapper's pit. He spotted me and said," This fella knows him!" Thankfully, I'm a big Soul fan and aware of many of his songs, so it helped to enjoy the night. It was obvious he'd need to introduce every song, to help us along. Then came I Wouldn't Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me) a mellow southern soul R&B gem, followed by Hucknall sitting on a stool for slithering ballad I'm Too Far Gone with the 'house' set fully back -lit. One of the main highlights came when he sang beautiful ballad Chains Of Love. SR sax stalwart Ian Kirkham dressed the song with some sensual splashes, bringing the biggest cheers of the night until then. He then slipped into I Pity The Fool. Simply Red guitarist Kenji 'Jammer' Suzuki was given the chance to show his finely tuned solo skills with some top bluesy fuzzy licks. "We love you Mick," came a shout. Mick returned a blown kiss. Rip-roaring Stormy Monday Blues allowed Mick to finally open up those tubes, (and what tubes they are too) finally getting sections of the crowd onto their feet, just like the good old days. The opening of single Poverty kept things going nicely as he romped through this dazzling version which raised the roof. As he finished the song he raised his fist, satisfied he'd done a great job, which he had.
Back for an encore, an appreciative Mick said, "You're very kind. Thank you very much," launching into what might be the next single, the full-on and classy Farther Up The Road, Bobby Bland's signature tune. He finally got the reaction, and conformation he'd been waiting for all night as the crowd went for it. Closing on another mellow note, Lead Me On proved that Mick is still one of the greatest singers Britain has produced. So, would Bobby have approved? Definitely.
The big question is, where does he look for inspiration next?
More covers albums?
File under: Still one of the best.
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