To paraphrase George Peppard in The A-Team, I love it when a band comes together.
Laurence Jones is undoubtedly a whizz kid in the guitar stakes, but the smartest thing he has ever done musically is probably to recruit the excellent Roger Inniss on bass and Miri Miettinen on drums as his band. As this belter of a show demonstrates, these guys have the chops to form a trio that knits together in the most relaxed way, whilst really letting the Jones boy take flight. The chemistry is evident throughout, whether in the way Inniss and Jones bounce off each other, or in the sense of playfulness that comes about because they’re all sympatico with each other.
Laurence Jones goes for lift off
Photo courtesy of Stuart Stott
The sound is big and meaty right from the opening ‘What’s It Gonna Be’, and if ‘Touch Your Moonlight’ is a rather slight song on record it comes alive more here, with Inniss carrying the riff asJones solos. The rocking ‘Don’t Need No Reason’ cranks things up another notch, and paves the way for the highlight that is ‘Good Morning Blues’. The blues have got us alright, as Jones plays a blinder with a squelchy wah wah solo before making his Strat howl big time with a few shots of whammy bar – and then getting into some lock tight harmonised guitar and bass runs with Inniss as icing on the cake.
A tribute to B.B. King in the form of ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ offers a breather, and demonstrates Miettinen’s effortless sense of time and space, and ability to subtly vary the beat. They go on to tackle ‘All Along The Watchtower’, and while I might often regard that as a redundant exercise, Jones sensibly doesn’t go for Hendrix but follows his own path, with some funky messing around before really taking off – and then briefly quoting ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for a bit of extra fun. (And here, just to underline the point, my notes go on to say: “LOVE the rhythm section!”)
Maturity is a word Laurence Jones must hear a lot these days. His voice is in the zone now, and his song-writing is getting stronger – it’s no surprise that the set draws most heavily on his latest album What's It Gonna Be. There’s still room to grow though – there are fireworks aplenty on the guitar front, and he has his own character rather than being beholden to some obvious influence. But I sense he can still acquire more soul, more sense of light and shade.
Jones and Inniss - a successful chemistry experiment
Photo courtesy of Stuart Stott
But hey, this isn’t about damning with faint praise; it’s about a recognition of more to come. Jones’s guitar playing, it has to be said, took me aback with its range and confidence, and he is trying to break new ground on the song front – new song ‘Whisper In The Wind’ shows his adventure, with shifts in mood, reflective lyrics inspired by his late uncle, some neat finger picking, and an exploration of a Bad Company like style that’s more interesting than his cover of ‘Can’t Get Enough’ on his latest album.
Enough of all the discerning critic bit. The crunching boogie of ‘Evil’ makes for a satisfying set closer, and they come back for a roof-raising encore of ‘Stop Moving House’, epitomising the effervescence and fun of the whole night – and of Laurence Jones himself.
In the support slot Blueprint offer up a set of 70s blues rock ranging across the likes of Rory Gallagher, Robin Trower and Led Zeppelin. That’s a challenging palette, and they still have work to do to give it some coherence, imbued with their own voice. But Chris Drysdale on lead guitar and vocals throws himself into some Jimmy Page moves with gusto, and if they can give that energy and enthusiasm greater focus they should get tighter.