HIGH POWERED ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
25th ANNUAL ROCKERS REUNION
Rivermead Leisure Complex, Reading, England
Saturday, 19th January 2008
Paul Ansell’s No. 9
JOHNNY POWERS & CHRIS CASELLO
Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers
As has now become customary, the rock ‘n’ roll year kicks off with the annual Rockers Reunion show and so come 19th January 2008, we jumped into the chariot and headed west to the Rivermead Leisure Complex, an easily accessible and spacious complex located on west side of Redding. In recent years, we had become involved in various snarl ups on the motor ways and so this year we set off early and arrived with plenty of spare time to catch all the acts appearing. Audience attendance was up to, if not exceeding, the levels of previous Reunions and all the numerous record, clothing and memorabilia stalls were doing good business. This event is a high priority on my calendar as the crack of the whole scene is always good and this year’s event was no exception.
First band to set off the night’s rockin’ was Midnight Shift who proved to be a great no frills r ‘n’ r combo playing a varied selection of covers such as ‘Matchbox’, ‘Sag, Drag And Fall’, ‘Dig Boy and ‘Gone Gone Gone’. They can be classified as a typical club band and were almost perfect for setting the scene for the evening. Cranking up the musical enjoyment and getting the dancers on the floor was Mean Streak, a band who specilaised more in the tunes of British rock ‘n’ roll such as ‘Please Don’t Touch’, ‘Brand New Cadillac’ and ‘Nothin’ Shakin’ (Billy Fury style). A very tight and professional band who mixed in humour between songs and proved themselves to be good musicians as demonstrated in no uncertain style by their interpretation of The Cougars ‘Saturday Night At The Duckpond’. The early Cliff Richard songbook was raided and the likes of ‘Apron Strings’, ‘Please Don’t Tease’, ‘Mean Streak’ and ‘Dynamite’ were served up. I guess the nearest comparison to this band is The Rapiers but Mean Streak’s output was far more firmly rooted in the late fifties.
The third band of the show was Furious who had been described to myself as being in the early Crazy Cavan mould. Whilst seeing the connection, they cam across to myself as being more akin to Lee Rocker and thus I feel are closer to the Stray Cats style of rock ‘n’ roll. Indeed, this Liverpool trio has the capability of breaking out into the big time. They are young and come complete with bags of stage presence. Lead vocals are undertaken by the upright bass player who launched their set off with their own frantic ‘Asbo Twist’ from their four track E.P. that is now available. The joint started to jump and the three young ladies at the front, who I believe come under the collective title of Sisters of the Night, were each waving a large pair of knickers on a stick. Wonderful atmosphere was thus set as these guys produced up a great selection of numbers (originals and covers) and varied tempos. These ranged from a unique ‘Don’t Change Your Style’, through ‘Baby Blue’, ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Don’t Knock Upon My Door’. This band has to be one of the hottest on the UK circuit right now and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.
Now it was star time as Paul Ansell’s No. 9’ set up on the stage. I admit to being a
relatively recent convert to Mr. Ansell and his band of musicians but he is, in my opinion, a near perfect master of his art. There are not many performers who can mix in a set numbers such as Kenny Rogers ‘Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town’, Iggy Pop’s ‘Passenger’, Billy Ocean’s ‘Red Light’ Johnny Burnette’s ‘Lonesome Train (with brilliant backing guitar work) and Merle Haggard’s/Gene Vincent’s ‘Lonesome Fugitive’ and pull them all off in a breath-taking example of versatility. At the risk of sounding like I am going overboard, this was a sheer top class example of musical ability of vocals and backing musicianship. More basic rock ‘n’ roll as accommodated with ‘Kansas City’ and Ansell’s own ‘Jodi-Lu’ and ‘Rockin’ In Memphis’. Crikey, he even pulled off the t mundane Presley tune ‘Pocket Full Of Rainbows’ and served up spell binding interpretations of ‘Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain’ and the show stopping workout on Don Gibson’s ‘Sea Of Heartbreak’. When was the last time one heard Roy Orbison’s ‘Sweet And Easy’ coming from the stage followed by ‘Big 10” Record’ - and performed in an exciting style? Paul deservedly received foot stomping calls for encores, magical moments.
The headliner for this Rockers reunion was Johnny Powers accompanied by Chris Casello on biting lead guitar. The now near obligatory addition of Casello to a performance by Johnny Powers has lifted Johnny’s shows to must see, and must see again, level. Casello’s guitar picking clearly inspires Power’s vocals/ stage workouts and the pair together make for some of the best live rock ‘n’ roll music that there is out there right now. And this is from a guy who will turn seventy years of age next March. All the great from the Powers catalogue were served up such as ‘Be Mine’ ‘With You Love, With Your Kiss’, ‘Mama Rock and ‘Rock Rock’. Standing there with legs spread apart and launching into powerful vocals with Casello boppin’ away like crazy behind him , we also had some more recent numbers such as ‘I Was There When It Happened’ (co-written with the late Carl Perkins) and ‘Rock Me Rockabilly’. The tempos were varied with ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You’ (which bought Charlie Gracie to mind) and a truly wonderful ‘Me And My Rhythm Guitar’. Other numbers in this great set included ‘Treat Me Right’, ‘Indeed I Do’, ‘Please Please Do’ and, of course’, ‘Long Blond Hair’ which had to be repeated. Casello was like a man possessed whilst playing the guitar solos on the last mentioned. The backing musicians, including the inimitable Clive Osborne on sax, were wholly in tune with the proceedings. A great great show.
As is now traditional, the night closed out with perennial Rockers Reunion favourites Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers who are clearly one of the favourite acts to perform at this event. They had the crowd jumping away like crazy, especially on ‘Both Wheels Left The Ground’ and this was one of their better performances in recent years. Maybe it was the top notch preceding performances that had served as inspiration. Whatever, it is not often one can go to a show, witness six acts and come away with such a great buzz.
This all bodes well for the oodles of good rock ‘n’ roll heading our way to salivate over: especially Hemsby 40 next May with Dale Hawkins, Sonny Burgess & the Original Pacers, Levi Dexter, The Blue Cats and Ocean’s Seven headlining. the eighteen act line-up. Be there or be square.
© Tony Wilkinson