Last night we played a gig with a legend: Dave Ball
from Procol Harum. If you know the song "A Whiter Shade of Pale", thats them.
It was a short notice offer (came in on Sunday night for gig on the Thursday) but one I wasn't going to pass up. I'd seen Dave play with Billy TK jnr which was great but at a few others gigs I felt the backing band didnt really do him justice - fluffing through songs like Stormy Monday and Aint Nobody's Business without attention to the original chord changes. Personally, I felt that was almost insulting the man. If you don't know the actual chords to those classics, then you didnt deserve to be up there with him.
Anyway, the rest of the band were available and dead keen, so in minutes we accepted the gig.
We hadn't played together for almost two months but when you have been playing for as long as we have (20 years +) it only takes a few numbers and you lock right on in.
So Thursday came and along came Dave, a fellow pom and probably the tallest man on Earth - well okay, on stage. He's over 6 feet 4. He'd borrowed some gear, very kindly donated by Adam Renata of The Jukes: a 62 strat and a 50watt Marshall half-stack.
I used to have one of these in the UK and during soundcheck I felt the familiar breeze around my ankles as the power and the volume forced the air out of the way.
"We're a quieter band than the rest of them", I explained. Its proof of a really good band if you can actually turn down and play so that people can talk over you. Its bloody difficult and takes alot of discipline.
This time we didnt play as quiet as that but found a good level where everyone was happy and could hear eachother. Even if the sound out front is excellent, poor onstage sound makes for a shit gig for the musicians.
Scribbling down a set order that was "Dave friendly", we were also joined by the great blues harp player Craig Bracken. Craig joins us often and its always ace to share in his musicality and listen to him wail.
We kicked off promptly with just the Los Diablos
3 piece: a couple of Stevie Ray numbers, one by Gary Moore, a T-bone Walker, a Jimi Hendrix then Hard Times by Ray Charles. Then Dave and Craig joined us.
The rest of the night ran on rails with Dave taking some beautiful solos, both fiery and melodic. A special moment came for me when I began one of my solos with an excerpt from Hideaway by Freddie King (John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Clapton also did a version) and as I came to the end, Dave stepped in and picked up the Hideaway theme once again. It was one of those "You know it and now you know that I know it too" unspoken moments. You couldnt stop me smiling all night.
Actually, I did stop smiling when I thought my 2IC guitar had been stolen. After flustered searching and a call home (did I really leave without it?) Turns out there was a case of mistaken identity: my guitar and the guitar Adam lent to Dave looked almost the same (different necks, same sunburst body). But when a mate of Dave's turned up with another guitar Dave began playing that one, so Adam took his back. Dave broke a string a few numbers in and so reached for the back up and grabbed mine instead.
Phew, I started the 2nd set with a few self-penned delta blues numbers but was a bit off-balance mentally for a few more than that.
All in all though a great night with great music from some great musicians. Thats why playing live is always the best.