I first saw Wilko Johnson playing with Dr Feelgood in a marquee at the Uppermill Festival back in the late seventies.
Then again with his group The Solid Senders at the now famous Mayflower Club in Belle Vue Manchester.
He then disappeared off my radar somewhat until his much publicised cancer and then almost Lazarus like recovery.
A highly successful album with Roger Daltrey followed, “Going Back Home”, and then it was back on the road with Wilko Johnson Band featuring the legendary Blockheads bassist Norman Watt-Ray and drummer Dylan Howe.
Tonight the Manchester Academy is pretty full for a show which I didn’t realise started at five o’clock. Consequently I missed the first two support acts Mollie Marriot and Salfords own Mike Sweeney with the Salford Jets. I did however catch ex Strangler Hugh Cornwall’s set which consisted of some of his new solo material along with selection of Stranglers songs which were well received by the crowd. For some reason Hugh Cornwall had stated there was to be no photography during his set but that didn’t prevent the camera phones appearing during Nice ‘n’ Sleazy!
Finally the nights headline act Wilko Johnson appeared, hitting the stage running, literally, with his inimitable jerky style and guitar chopping, back and forward covering the whole stage time and time again. The set was a mix of songs from various albums but featured quite a few Dr Feelgood songs which the crowd loved, Going Back Home which was a big hit with Roger Daltry got a massive cheer as did the old Feelgood song Roxette.
An extended version of Everybodys Carrying A Gun saw Wilko prowling the stage using his red and black Telecaster as a machine gun firing chords into the audience. There’s hardly a second between songs such is the speed of Wilko, the only respite comes in the slower songs such as Dr Dupree and when the other two band members get solo spots. Norman Watt-Ray is an amazing bass player caressesing and hugging his bass whilst Dylan Howe is a tight no nonsense drummer, perfect for this blues trio.
The fact that Wilko survived his illness and is able to perform like this is amazing, and for anyone who never saw Dr Feelgood this is pretty close to how it was, only the late Lee Brilleaux and his white suit are missing. Tonight was a perfect example of British R&B played by a band who enjoy performing, with a enigmatic front man on guitar who can’t stay still for a second. If you want a good time catch The Wilko Johnson Band.