John McLaughlin – Ronnie Scotts London July 2011

A bit late, due to holidays, but too good not to report. I saw the guitar legend and his band the 4th dimension at Ronnie Scott’s in London last month. Probably the most expensive tickets I have ever bought, but to be 10 feet from McLaughlin and the rest of the band … why not?

I won’t bother to try to describe his playing, you can find samples on youtube, but to give an idea, it was in the groove of a) his own music (of course) – louder and tighter than ever, b) reminiscent of Jeff Beck / Jan Hammer in the 80s and c) some sensibilities of Jan Akkerman, the great Dutch Jazz guitarist. McLaughlin goes further and harder than you expect – he plays great jazz lines over hard syncopated rock rhythms.

Gary Husband played keyboards, and as ever, is a great personality in stage. You never know quite what he is going to do. This gig, he left the keyboard for a while and went head to head in a drum duel with Ranjit Barot for around 10 minutes. The presence of two complete drumkits on the stage was a warning that something amusing was likely to happen. It was like the ‘cuttin’ heads’ scene in the Crossroads movie, but with humour. Translated into words… Barot: I’m the real guy here, cop this… Husband: wimp. Take this. Barot: just getting my overcoat off here. Whack! Husband: that sucked, eat my sticks! Barot: off my stage, pretender! …. you get the idea. Etienne Mbappe on bass was just a joy to listen to (especially for me, he was 3 feet away), punching out hard rhythms, lots of slap and melody.

Summary: a bunch of world class musicians + 1 legend in London’s most famous jazz club = perfection.

Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck

This is the first in an occasional series about the guitar, mainly centred on great players, or at least players I happen to like. I will restrict the series to people I have actually seen live… mostly….

I’ll start with Clapton and Beck, because I saw them at the O2 earlier this year (2010) in their ‘together and apart’ billing.


I have been a Clapton fan since first discovering him in a record sale in about 1980 as a schoolboy. I was not old enough to be seeing him in the 60s and 70s, but made up for it by listening to all of the classic albums until the stylus came through the other side, and like many others was mesmerised by the original Crossroads, Layla and other classics. I saw him in 1983 and 1990 or so, both times in Brisbane, and then again this year. The biography ‘Survivor’ said he was mainly drunk in the 80’s (Pete Townsend’s fault apparently)… if that’s true, I must start drinking more while I have my guitar plugged in…

Clapton & beck 2010 O2 arena London

The shot above is the two of them playing … Moon River! Eric treated Jeff more or less as his lead guitarist for the songs they were on stage together.

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