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WILKO JOHNSON BAND
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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - Fuggle & Firkin - March 16 1998
Oxford/UK

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Superb last year...this vet of the Essex/Dr Feelgood scenecan still really cut it. All the classics plus some interesting new material.

(Source: Flyer FUGGLE & FIRKIN Website)

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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - The Stables - 15/12/1997
Wavenden/UK
& Walkeren Sports & Social Hall - 28/06/1997
Stevenage/UK

Gig Reviews by Lee Sullivan

It's odd the way you can forget how good something is. Life's clutter can obscure the memory of something you really enjoy and it comes as a real, if pleasant, shock to rediscover it. This happened to me when I recently started to repurchase the Feelgood back catalogue on C.D. Suddenly, the layers of Punk and everything since were stripped away, reminding me of the excitement of the early New Wave/Pub Rock music scene.

By happy coincidence, I heard that Wilko's band should be playing at the Dankworth's Stables venue at Wavenden, Bucks, and I persuaded my wife and some sympathetic friends to go with me for moral support in case of disappointment. After all, heroes can turn out to have mellowed over twenty years... As we settled down in our seats(!), I started to get a little nervous: the set up onstage consisted of a steel guitar, small amp and a STOOL! Great relief at the appearance of the artist, then, but we were still sitting down... but then there's a Marshall amp on stage followed by three wonderfulIy disreputable looking guys. AND WILKO'S CARRYING A BLACK AND RED TELECASTER!

The thrill of Wilko's first strafing runs dispelled all my fears about mellowing out, though he looks more relaxed than he did when I saw the Solid Senders years ago. The repeated leaping splits he performs still make me envious of his athleticism, being someone who breaks into a sweat just by sitting down. The set was a nice balance of new and old material, and Salvatore and Norman's playing was brilliantly tight, though the front-row bass-side people like us realized that a left-of-stage position would be better next time as the bass level swamped out even Wilko´s manic chopping! This was more than made up for by Norman's wonderful grimaces as he apparently tried to strangle the life from his bass. Unexpectedly, 'Don't Let Your Daddy Know' was a rear highlight, due to Wilko's, er, loving behaviour with his guitar, which may or may not explain why so many strings burst!

This wonderful gig led me to seek out the S.K.O.H. newsletter and through it my next - at Stevenage, the smaller Walkern Sports & Social Hall. No sitting here, just a beery, enthusiastic and packed audience, hot music and lots of sweat - an embarrassing amount of it mine. Wilko seemed really happy with the response - an observation echoed in an overheard conversation between some young guys afterwards, along with 'he was really smoklng'. The newer material is growing more familiar to me now and the section where he crabs across the stage during 'Slippin' & Slidin' is, in my view, one of the Great Moments In Rock.

Some Kind Of Hero? Oh yes, a rediscovered one to me, but more importantly - Bloody Magic! Roll on new recordings and an available back-catalogue...

(Source: "Some Kind Of Hero" Newsletter No.4/October 1997)

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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - Fuggle & Firkin - October 6 1997
Oxford/UK

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About time too we hear some of you say !!!. Well like all good things it'll be worth waiting for. This powerhouse trio are stalwarts of British R'n'B and as powerful an act as you'll see....say no more, see you here!

(Source: Flyer FUGGLE & FIRKIN Website)

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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - Essex Arms - 09/08/1997
Brentwood/UK

Gig Review by Paul Thomas

I remember some years ago, going to see Wilko and the band on the hottest night of that particular year at the Half Moon in Putney. I swear it was 150 degrees in there - the perspiration was literally running down the walls. So I thought it would be a case of 'deja-vu' when I went to see them on the hottest night of 1997 at the Essex Arms, a small, homely venue which I like very much. This is a pretty relaxed place to see your R & B and the owner and staff are friendly and well organised. This was Wilko's third or fourth visit here and is always well received.

The band start off with the customary 'Everybodys Carrying A Gun' and 'Barbed Wire Blues' before going into 'The More I Give'. Halfway through this number Wilko breaks a string but manfully finishes the song and cheerfully changes it while Norman and Sav settle into a riff for 'Take It Easy Babe'. Because of the heat, the rather conservative-looking crowd opted for standing back and admiring the sheer brilliance of the musicianship rather than leaping around in front of the stage.

Soon into the set, the band were sweating buckets, particularly Norman. I hope Wilko and Sav won't mind me mentioning the fact that Norman's bass playing is actually getting better - how far can you take perfection? All too quickly, the band were nearing the end of their set, leaving Wilko to thank the audience "for turning up on this particularly warm night" before rewarding them with 'Back In The Night' and 'She Does It RIght'. They returned for a swift encore of that love ballad 'Dr.Feelgood' prior to retiring to their dressing room (kitchen actually) to partake in a well-earned pint - of water and ice!

As I say it was a case of 'deja-vu'!

(Source: "Some Kind Of Hero" Newsletter No.4/October 1997)

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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - Royal Standard - 31/05/97
Walthamstow/UK

Gig Review by Paul Thomas

Having not seen or heard the band live for all of two months, I started to have withdrawal symptoms and needed an injectlon of fuel-powered R&B that Wilko administers. It had been possibly 3 or 4 years since I had last been to a gig at the Standard. This was Wilko's first show here for even longer - a venue he used to pack out regularly. On a warm Saturday evening I took the 40 minute journey to Walthamstow and was pleasantly surprised to find the Standard had not changed much, unlike many of the old regular London live gigs which seem to have fallen by the wayside. As I am served my first pint of the evening, the support band, "Larry Miller" take to the stage and play an enthusiastic set which is well received by the 30 or so punters there. It looked as if this would be a very poor turn-out but as soon as Wilko hit the stage, the Standard seemed to fill up from nowhere and suddenly it was an R&B boogie party in true East End knees-up fashion. Wilko, Norman and Sav must have been together for about 12 years now but this band is not one to purely go through motions for beer money nor resort to the "chicken-in-a-basket" circuit, This band is SO tight and really hit the mark, giving their all. They fire off with my own favourite, "Everybody's Carrying A Gun", entwining straight into "Barbed Wire Blues" without a pause. Some of the newer numbers are also featured, "Your Beauty", "Slippin' & Slidin" and "Take It Easy Babe". We then move smartly through "Sneakin' Suspicion", "The More I Give", "Wooly Bully" and "Cairo Blues". Two of the real highlights of a Wilko set are "When l'm Gone" and "Don't Let Your Daddy Know" and tonight is no exception, with the whole band really burning rubber and cooking on gas. The crowd love it - there's not a single person in the place that is not enjoying themselves. What always impresses me about a Wilko gig is the remarkable cross-section of the audience. Tonight, we have hippies, punks, skinheads, 4O-somethings, students - the lot, all here for a good time without a hint of feeling threatened. The band finish with "Bottle Up & Go" but not surprisingly were demanded back for an encore which comprised of "Back In The Night", "Dr Feelgood" and "She Does It Right". The punters are sent wild - sweat is flying from band and crowd alike. The dancefloor is awash with beer - this is how an R&B gig should be! The band leave the stage again but the noise from the crowd is "WE WANT MORE". They heroically returned once more for an encore of, as Wilko says, "the most famous road in rock & roll - 'Route 66'". This was a superb night, Cheers!

(Source: "Some Kind Of Hero" Newsletter No.3/August 1997)

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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - Ashcroft Arts Centre - April 12, 1997
Fareham/UK

Gig Review by Dave Trott - Venue Magazine

Wilko in Fareham? Strewth!! If you have seen the Hitchcock film, 'The Birds,' you will remember the closing scene when Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren leave their house to get in the car and have to walk through a mass of birds, who sit watching in the silence. Well that scene crossed my mind as I lumbered into the Ashcroft bar.

It was quiet, but full of seated people, saying nothing (or very little). It took me back a little. Now, I've been to my share of R&B gigs and this is not how it usually goes. I expected lots of lads drinking Bud whose girlfriends are carrying the car keys, a smattering of musos, a soupçon of teacher types who remember the first time round and me getting brained on Old Thumper. Misgivings continue as we are invited into the auditorium to take our seats. Seats!!! Something has gone horribly wrong…..

Wilko always looks a little startled on stage, his trade mark manic stare cuts through even the densest dance hall smog and he glares at the audience who sit and listen as he stabs and attacks his guitar shredding chords and wounding the blues as only he can. The applause is immediate on completion of the first song and the atmosphere starts to develop (to my considerable relief).

In common with many, I have followed Wilko's progress from medical man to Blockhead and Solid Sender, always finding his playing a matter of magical simplicity and dynamite energy. With long time cohorts Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Salvatore Ramundo on the drums, they perform as one, creating excitement, emotion and fire in equal amounts. As a live performer he reacts to the music as if it was the first time he heard it, leaping, strutting and generally using up all the room with Tommy gun antics and the like. Norman Watt-Roy is a terrifying bassist, he solos during the rhythm parts, squeezes bends into tight corners and could easily steal the show from lesser bands - (but he has never been in a lesser band).

'She Does It Right', 'Back In The Night' and 'Sneaking Suspicion' are thankfully all present and correct tonight, leading me to wonder why he had taken to playing art centres - getting arty? Feeling too posh to play in clubs? - Wilko carefully explained that, "It's called making a living..." - which shut me up!

My own narrow minded reservations aside, this was quite a turn up for the books, The Ashcroft centre is to be applauded for presenting music so far outside its usual staple fare. Steve Rowley, the manager, is working hard to push open his doors to wider audiences, keep pushing Steve! DT

(Published with friendly permission of Dave Trott - Venue Magazine, Portsmouth/England)

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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - The Roxy - June 18, 1996
Waterford/UK

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Feelgood factor at The Roxy Waterford's premier blues venue (UK), The Roxy presents another international star on Tuesday 18th June, when Wilko Johnson brings his band to town. Wilko first came to prominence as a leading member of Dr. Feelgood, and later went on to star with Ian Dury & The Blockheads. Now firmly established as a blues `great' in his own right, Wilko surrounds himself with two other top musicians Salvatore Ramundo and Norman Watt-Roy. to present one of the best live shows around.

("Entertainment Extra 96 06 07" - Source: MUNSTER EXPRESS Website)

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 WILKO JOHNSON BAND - Half Moon - March 9, 1996
London Putney/UK

Gig Review by Mark Payne/UK

The ex-Dr Feelgood guitarist and songwriter returns to the Half Moon after a short break. Small Faces fans should check out Wilko Johnson. Not only does he come from the same area, roughly, as the Small Faces but he plays a driving r'n'b in his own unique style but which is not dissimilar to Steve Marriott's own playing. He plays regularly on the London pub circuit with his three-piece band which has been in its current incarnation for some time. Norman Watt-Roy of Blockheads fame pumps out the bass and Salvatore Ramundo - all the way from sunny Italy - hits the drums harder than almost anyone!

The back room of the Half Moon in Putney, South-West London was packed as usual for Wilko who maintained his high standard with a blistering performance including a rare second encore. Wilko's set spans his whole career, covering the earlier days with Dr Feelgood through the Solid Senders phase to his more recent work with the current band. His guitar playing is unique and has been a notable influence on other guitarists most notably Paul Weller (Check out some of the tracks on In the City).

I must admit I missed the beginning of last night's gig but I know Wilko almost always starts with Everybody's Carrying A Gun from the Solid Senders album. This features Wilko's distinctive machine gun guitar playing. However, I was there in time for one of the high-lights in my opinion - Sneakin' Suspicion. The title track of the Dr Feelgood album still sounds great after 20 years. Another one of my favourites is When I'm Gone from Ice on the Motorway which is a crowd pleaser. Paradise was also a revived Dr Feelgood number as was Don't Let Your Daddy Know. The latter is starting to rival Freebird for length but unlike Freebird, it is actually great to hear every time! Don't Let Your Daddy Know is far longer than the original version although a live version but the current group is available on the live album recorded at the Half Moon and Cricketers in 1990, Don't Let Your Daddy Know. Last time I was at the Half Moon Don't Let Your Daddy Know was extended in the middle to allow Wilko to change a guitar string without stopping. Last night there seemed to be at least one new verse and new treatments of some of the "ad-libs" in the middle. If he's not careful there will be no room for the rest of the set! He finished the main set with two more Dr Feelgood classics, Back in the Night and the excellent She Does it Right.

A brief break before the first encore which consisted of the extended version of Roxette followed by Bottle Up and Go.Wilko was on form and he was brought back for a second encore.Usually this is the cue for the Pirates song Dr Feelgood but tonight we were treated to Wilko's version of Route 66 which he plays only rarely. It was one of his best performances and he was his inimitable self with the darting eyes and rapid movements across the stage. It's quite rare to Wilko break into a smile but tonight we were privileged.
Wilko Johnson plays the Half Moon Putney on 22nd June 1996.

(Published with friendly permission of author Mark Payne / UK)

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WILKO JOHNSON BAND - 100 Club - March 1996
London/UK

Review by Roger Holland

They call this Pub Rock. And they sneer at it with scorn. But these are simple joys, not to be deprecated by fools who seek salvation at the feet of The Jesus And Mary Chain and queue to praise The Long Riders! (...) Wilko Johnson looks younger than ever and still plays with that air of utter desperation. Exact and angular rhythms. The old songs are old friends and many of the new ones sound just the same. And just for once this is alright. Because this is a celebration of an almost pure form, a roots music which has no need and no respect for the stadia pretense, arrogance and heroic ambition that they teach you at Donington. Wilko Johnson is neither Bono nor Ozzy. (...) And for this we should all be grateful.

(Sounds, March 8, 1986 - Source: "Some Kind Of Hero" Newsletter No.1/Februaray 1997)

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Review by Rob Brown, Bristol/UK

FROM APRIL TO OCTOBER '77

I've never been in a band or know how hard it must be to break up. But as a 'mere' fan of that 'once in a decade' band you follow with such an incredible intensity, it has it's own unbelievable shock. So it was on the 9th of April 1977. Out from work still covered in grease and brass dust, I picked up my usual hot pasty and NME only to read 'WILKO EXITS FEELGOODS'. I spent the rest of the day totally stunned. I could not believe it and 21 years on (or was it only yesterday?!) - still can't. When it eventually sinks in, you think maybe there's two bands to follow! But it never works out.I went to see the Feelgoods at the Bristol Colston Hall on October the 9th 1977, more in hope than anger. Sadly, 'Gypie' Mayo just wasn't Wilko. Through their dogged do or die set, out of the spot-lit darkness came a telling chant 'WILKO!, WILKO!, WILKO!'

WILKO JOHNSON BAND - DECEMBER 5th 1977. BATH PAVILLION

The Pavillion is a weird place, like some spire-less church squirming under the gaze of a near-by glass entertainment centre. Expecting only a sickening letdown or even the complete vandalisation of my memory and clutching my advance tickets, I walked through the dark, cold Regency Bath to see some kind of R'n'B hero.
I drifted down the steps into the grey world of backstreet gigs. Rain falls through the light of the glass above, there's no crowd. The ticket states seven thirty, I'm early. Slipping into the foyer, no-one collects the stubs, so to the bar, just in time to witness the till eject it's cash all over the floor, but beyond the door comes the sound of the band.
Buy a Guinness, I wander in to the almost total emptyness. There's no one here save the odd bod (who I later feel were roadies) and in the centre is a small platform for the lights and sound. Yet in the spots stands the man himself and the band. This place is like the proverbial Tardis as within seems a vast hall, a stage at one end and all around the wall is a raised step three foot wide on which the small band of punters will congregate. The echo is terrible as untuned notes clash all around. "Give me a 'G'" (Twang, Twang, Twang). After maybe twenty minutes, I was nicely escorted out, like I said, I was early!

Immediately, a small queue and I were let back in the bar. Soon a largish group builds.

Half an hour later, we're let in to the hall again to disperse into that chill space. As we stand in the void it's 8.30 pm and the 'support' comes on. Don't remember their name but they're pretty good. Another Canvey Island mob! "Any of you bin to Canvey? ...No well it's your loss" and " What do yuh mean I look like Keef Richard! I 'appen to like Keef Richard!". My eyes are on the girl on keys and vocals. As I lean on the stage, she crosses over to the mike near me! The drummer gets a well deserved cheer after fighting a running battle to keep his kit up. They return for an encore. Wilko stands in the shadows with a kid high on his shoulders. Then we wait.

Ages seem to pass, then it begins. It seems unreal. There's subdued applause. Is it the atmosphere that's so dampening or don't they know it's the ex of the Feelgoods up there! Don't think it's the latter.
This 'unknown' band takes to the stage, they plug in. There's a twang and I'm blown away. Just blown away!
It's the make or break time, no crap now because this is it, this is so real, I feel sick. I lean on the stage and cower under a blast from a double barrel shotgun that shatters the Feelgood effigy into a thousand blood-splattered pieces that are ricocheting their distorted echoes back like shrapnel from these Pavillion walls. Sounds of past few and rare good times howled in the ears. Staccato Wilkoean classics that brought tears to the eyes. Old numbers, supposed lost to a fading memory and twelve inch vinyl discs, scream back faster, tighter, meaner than they were ever played. I can't remember all the numbers kicked in the teeth by this manic of R'n'B. A gale force of 'Twenty Yards Behind', 'Jetty', 'Boom Boom', 'Time & The Devil', 'Sneakin' Suspicion', 'She Does It Right' of which several were from the last album and seemed fated never to be heard again! Still crashing round our ears, 'All Through The City', 'I Don't Mind'. Each spat out with venom. Wilko sings lead now but still rampages this little stage, pinstripes and all. There's no space left in such a rockin' wall to miss Brilleaux's harp. Wilko's on the run, machine-gunning the middle distance, chopping out chords - spewing 'em out like teeth!
I pity those who didn't turn up and to think I nearly didn't!
The bass is frantic and the box reverberates next to my eardrum. I hum it's line feeling the vibration in my skull. The face is riviting as it twists, distorts to his crashing rhythm and lead. Now it's 'Walking On The Edge', 'Keep It Out Of Sight'. Rock and Roll demands pain and I've the bruises on the arm to prove it. My arm pounds the boards - pounding - pounding. There's a blur of black on white careering into bassist Stevie Lewins who returns a dead pan 'sod off' look mixed with entwining spiraling licks.
Now it's newees 'Burning Fountains' plus a more intricate version of 'I'm A Man' with different lyrics - under the banner 'Everybody Knows My Name', then a blues tune 'Dr Feelgood', then Dylan's 'Highway 61'.
I try in vain to memorize the experience before I become fossilized but I know I can't. Over to the left is John Potter (session man on the early Feelgood album) on keys and the odd vocal. Chunka, chunka - banging on the 'skins' is Alan Platt - all told a bloody good band. Three encores then it's over, ears ringing and I find it hard to walk! Christ it's over, really over. I've just heard the Wilko Johnson band!

Eat your heart out Dr Feelgood.
Eat your bloody heart out R'n'B.

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Gig reviews of the early Dr Feelgood days are to find in
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