Review: Wilko Johnson puts on energetic but flawed show

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Wilko Johnson, Leamington Assembly, Friday April 22

Wilko Johnson is known as one of the most distinctive blues guitarists around thanks to his charismatic personality and finger-picking style.

And at the age of 68 he put on an energetic, if flawed, show.

Before he appeared, the audience was treated to Black Country blues guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor. And what a treat she was.

Although her voice did not necessarily blow people away, her guitar playing certainly did. Every guitar solo was full of intricate twists and turns without being over-the-top, with an almost effortless quality to each one.

The sound was perfect during her set - full of life in her faster songs and beautifully soft in her slower numbers.

It was virtually impossible to take your eyes off her, such was her stage presence. That said, her drummer and bassist complemented her brilliantly.

When she finished, it was difficult to think how Johnson would top her. In short, he did not.

Johnson’s percussive style of guitar playing, performed without a plectrum, had an excellent groove to it, and his idiosyncratic strutting was certainly entertaining.

However, after around 45 minutes this style grew tiresome due to the similarity of his songs and his stage walk.

At times, he and his band would seemingly stray away from any kind of structure, devolving into glorified jam sessions which often dragged. This turned into self-indulgence near the end of the gig, which incorporated wearying slap-bass and drum solos from Johnson’s bandmates.

When the band focused on playing short, punchy songs, they were at their best, and it was a shame they thought 10-minute plus improvised jamming was a good idea.

Overall, Johnson put on a good show, but he was completely overshadowed by his stellar support act.