Live Gig Opinion Piece

Lingering on the nostalgic and riffing through the present: 7 Decades, 3 Guitars that changed the world!

Review by Adrian Hextall

It’s no surprise that the 2 hour showcase by the team of seasoned musicians spent 75% on the decades that defined the famous Fender Telecaster, Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul. Starting in the 1950s with a fabulous run through of the origins of the iconic instruments, the Victoria & Albert Museum saw a capacity crowd possibly more accustomed to a night looking at renaissance art soaking up the history and music from a team who truly understood what really made America great.

A Q&A session hosted by The Times journalist and author of Guitar Man, Will Hodgkinson and a panel consisting of Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page’s manager Bill Curbishley, Razorlight front man Johnny Borrell, former guitarist with The Fall (and Mark E Smith’s ex-wife) Brix Smith Start and Kevin Brennan MP, a member of the House of Commons band and drafted in possibly to keep things a little bit more ‘Kensington’ than may otherwise have been the case kick started proceedings.

The questions posed were great drawing anecdotes from Curbishley about Pete Townsend and his desire to destroy any guitar that fell out of favour with him. Borrell, comparing the money to be made busking in London as a teenager against the cost of a pint (£2.50) and the cost of some quality hallucinogenic drugs (also £2.50) was priceless. Don’t do drugs kids unless of course it’s as cheap as a pint and will last much longer than the effect of 4% strength lager will do.

Brix provided some fascinating insight into life with the infamous Mark E Smith and his desire to sabotage the sound coming from the band on stage during performances. Being smarter than your husband (aren’t all wives?) clearly paying off as, led by Brix, the band started to pre-empt Smith’s efforts to ruin the bass drum by ripping out the mic and hid the real one under a fake which saw Smith rip out the fake thinking he’d won. The single digit gesture by Brix would suggest otherwise!

With Brennan proving that all political parties can get along, confirming their HoC band contains one SNP member, 2 members of the Labour Party and a couple of Tories, maybe it’s time to let the music sort out Brexit for us…

And in case you’re wondering, it appears the general viewpoint is that most Tories are heavy metal fans… who knew!?

As the floor cleared and the main presentation took place, the best way to describe the following two hours is a ‘live documentary’. A screen behind the band that came on stage gave us a narrator (London based actor Alex Walton) who dressed to fit the decade he was discussing, looking every inch the record engineer of the time. The band then took to the stage with authentic, original instruments including a 1950 Fender Broadcaster, the forerunner of the Telecaster and one of only 100 ever made.

The evening was then broken into four parts with an intermission in the middle for a chilled glass of white wine, because.. well…. Kensington, with each segment looking at a couple of decades where certain artists became synonymous with the instruments they played.

Buddy Holly, Telecaster, Jimi Hendrix, Stratocaster, Pete Townsend both a Fender and Gibson man in his career, Joe Strummer, Telecaster, Hank Marvin, Stratocaster all of them showcased playing tracks that everyone to a person knew off by heart whether rock and roll was their thing or not.

The 70’s saw Mick Ronson’s Black Beauty Les Paul, Blackmore’s Stratocaster and the 80’s and beyond included as you might imagine Slash and Mark Knopfler with their trademark Les Paul’s as well. If the 80s and beyond felt rushed (3 decades covered in less than 30 minutes) it’s more down to the fact that the iconic guitar heroes aren’t as noticeable these days. Slash flies the flag as does Tom Morello and the great rendition that closes that era of Killing in the Name… went to prove his impact.

Of course the close is ‘Layla’ the Fender driven classic by …well I think we know who… It brings a perfect evening to a perfect finish.

All of the signature tunes were played by the wonderful band ;

  • Michael John Ross – Guitar & Vocals
  • Mike Pratt – Bass & Musical Director
  • Tony Holmes – Drums
  • Roy Sudan – Guitar
  • Jez Davies – Keys
  • Plus 2 of the most wonderful female backing \ alternate lead singers that at times simply lifted the show to another level!

There are 4 more shows 2 matinees and 2 evening performances. Miss it at your peril:

Get tickets for Saturday and Sunday here:

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