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Otis Taylor + Matt Schofield Trio
Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush 18.10.06
Reviewed by G.P. Bennett & Lewis Hodgkinson

Tonight for us represented the best and worst of our beloved blues. At some points we were witness to moments of musical brilliance, invention and simplistic creativity, at others we were plunged into an abyss of awfulness.

First impressions of the venue? Slightly odd really, a strange divide existed between a smoky rugby club style reception area with a bar that only served bottles (never a good thing, especially at 3 quid a pop) and the main room.

The main room still holds ambience from its early days as a ballroom, with ornate decoration and impressive chandeliers. The problem, apart from the rows of uncomfortable seating, was the sound. Very 'boomy' with a resonating echo that never seemed to disappear.

Matt Schofield Trio
We walked in with The Matt Schofield Trio already in full flow, pumping bass from the left hand of keyboardist Jonny Henderson and the jazz shuffling of Evan Jenkins on Drums, backing Schofield's unspeakably good licks (that's good licks not looks, at one point we wondered if Matt had come straight from his day job at the mime theatre).

Have we heard it all before? Well yes, some of it, but when it's played like this who cares. Schofield is unquestionably one of this country's most inventive and talented Blues guitarists. His range is tremendous and we were constantly surprised and moved by his creativity during solos.

The drummer is superb, but the one element of the band that really hits the mark is Johnny Henderson. Maintaining a strong, distinctive bassline throughout, Henderson still manages to run riot, producing a flurry of special changes and run’s that leaves the audience knocked out.

All in all it's excellent stuff. Matt sticks primarily to tracks from his latest album 'Siftin Thru Ashes' but does treat the audience to some Albert Collins covers where he demonstrates just why everyone in the London blues scene at the moment seems to rate him so highly.

Well worth a look if you get the opportunity.

Otis Taylor
Floral Cowboy Shirt, Jeans, and... a Baseball Cap! Not many people can make that look work, but then again not many people could make a band work that included a guitarist resembling the missing cousin of Tony Soprano, complimented (cough) by the "legendary" Gary Moore...!!!

Otis began in fine form strumming his trance like rhythms on Banjo, shouting / singing about War (apparently one song was about how countries seem to think they can just invade others and take what they want) and with a song on his album called 'Government Lied', I get the feeling Otis is slightly peeved at his country's leader (hardly original in today's climate though).

The first 3 or 4 songs worked really well, with the drummer following Taylor's wiggles effortlessly with some good solid work from the missing Soprano. The sound they created was impressive too, not one for bass players ourselves, it was nice to see another band pulling it off with a creative line-up.

Admittedly there isn't much to the songs, one chord licks seem to be the norm, lyrics are sparse and rare, but it’s more about the feel they created, the smiles on Taylor's face told it all.

There was a nice original touch when on the 4th song the band were joined by a harp player, and Taylor himself also switched to harp, "2 Harps??" I hear you cry!! Yeah, and it worked, both finding spaces around the other on a Bo Diddley style romp. The atmosphere picked up when Otis ventured into the audience with his harp urging the healthy crowd to sing along, something in which they duly obliged. It was safe to say that the evening's entertainment was chugging along nicely.

Then it happened. After a short introduction and a long tuning up session, ladies and gentlemen... Please welcome Mr. Gary Moore.
It quickly became apparent that the hypnotic, feel good subtlety we'd all been enjoying was about to be hijacked by the new addition on stage. Love it or hate it, this was going to be the Gary Moore show. A large majority of the audience were clearly ready for the change and were looking forward to getting their money's worth.

Memories of the songs that followed are vague. A lot of readers will hate us for asking this, but what is the point of Gary Moore? We personally felt we were being subjected to a slow and painful death by guitar solo. Everyone knows that Moore can play, but does Otis Taylor's music suit his unnecessary, over complicated and often cliched guitar style?

If nothing else the Otis Taylor band provided Moore with everything he needed to plunge the gig into showmanship hell. He was offering the missing Soprano trade-off's, nodding for him to attempt to match Moore at either speed, volume or facial expression. Soprano didn't stand a chance. Try as he might to get a note in edgeways Moore was a law unto himself. The sound engineer lost all control over Moore’s volume and as a result the audience was left in an enjoy it or leave scenario. A number did walk out, but the majority faithful stayed and lapped up solo after solo, watching a happy if somewhat bewildered Otis Taylor and band take the back seat.

Moore was in heaven. Teleport us away from the Bush Hall stage and into the Birmingham NEC and we could have been at some dreadful Guitar Show solo workshop with Moore blazing all over Clapton-esque backing track's, basking in the gratitude from hundred's of bedroom soloists.

Being cynical old soles, we think part of the reason for tonight's display was the result of a threat to topple Moore from the perch from the younger more dynamic Matt Schofield. You can imagine Moore sitting backstage with his hair in curler's listening to the young bluesman wow the audience, whilst stamping his feet and shouting "I’ve still got it, I'll show them, just let me on that stage, they’ll see".

Who knows? Whatever way you look at it, tonight’s show was certainly value for money. The Matt Schofield Trio were worth the entrance fee alone and if you were that way inclined you could revel in a Gary Moore masterclass afterwards. If not you could sit back, safe in the knowledge that a scathing attack in the form of an amateurish review was just around the corner!

Please Otis... No Moore!!