Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings forced to battle against disastrous sound mix
by Jeremy Miles
Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings: Lighthouse, Poole. Friday 29th November, 2013
This should have been a fantastic show. In fact I’m sure it was. Unfortunately, despite superb musicianship, an eclectic mix of blues and R&B and a whole bunch of other gems, it sounded awful. Struggling from the outset with a decidedly soupy sound, Bill and the band battled gamely on. Microphones were switched, balances adjusted but we never got a satisfactory resolution to the problem. Whether it was equipment failure or human error was hard to tell but if it sounded bad where I was sitting – two thirds of the way back and bang in the centre of the hall – it is unlikely there was anywhere that would have delivered a good listening experience.
This was a big shame. I’ve seen the former Rolling Stone leading variations of this line-up many times. They are excellent. Reviews from previous concerts on this tour indicate that the Rhythm Kings are playing at the top of their game. Sadly a big gremlin joined the band at Poole on Friday night.
Looking on the plus side we got the chance to witness some amazing musicians in action. Albert Lee and Terry Taylor on guitars, Geraint Watkins on keyboards, Graham Broad on drums, Frank Mead and Nick Payn on horns, vocalist Beverly Skeete and of course the now 77-year-old Mr Wyman on bass. The great Georgie Fame should have been there too but is recovering from a bout of pneumonia.
Sound issues apart, the band did a phenomenal job with a set that travelled joyously from Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music to Dylan’s country tinged I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight via the music of, among others, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Elvin Bishop, Jimmie Rodgers, Mississippi John Hurt, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry and the James’s – Elmore and Etta.
Special guest was Maria Muldaur who wrapped her amazing vocal range around some fine blues numbers. Inevitably she also performed her big hit of some 40 summers ago Midnight at the Oasis. It proved one of the casualties of the evening with the sound balance all over the place. The drums in particular were way too loud. Listening hard and isolating individual instruments I could hear how good it should have been. Taken as a whole though the number was a cacophonous jig-saw of sound. In complete contrast was Muldaur’s fine rendering of 1920s Americana on Richland Woman Blues.
The show certainly had its moments and sounded both better and more nuanced on quieter numbers and those where fewer instruments or a softer approach was employed. Consequently the highpoint for me was when Albert Lee and Beverley Skeete duetted beautifully on the Everly Brothers’ classic Crying In the Rain. With Lee moving to piano and Terry Taylor as the only other musician on stage, it was exquisite.
– Jeremy Miles