Amazing live shot: Laurence Harvey
You’d be hard pressed to find a better blues band currently treading the boards than Ian Siegal and his crew. With recent album ‘one night in Amsterdam’ showcasing the electric side to Ian with devastating effect, the band have been out on the road for most of March (Ian blowing up two amps in the process) and by the time they hit Camden’s wonderful Jazz Café they’ve become an even more well-honed outfit, capable of blistering moments of excess and wonderful flights of fancy, depending on where the mood takes them. Offering up a set of covers and originals all delivered with inimitable and rather ragged charm, Ian Siegal provokes a rare euphoria amongst the assembled throng and it proves to be an irresistible evening of entertainment.
Before Ian takes to the stage and raises the roof, however, there’s Niall Kelly, whose set ranges from beautifully phrased country to full-throated, raucous blues over the course of some forty minutes. With a band comprising double bass (which sounded simply wonderful in the perfectly set-up Jazz Café), drums, electric guitar and his wife, Caitlin , providing extra strings and vocals, Niall sets about warming up the exceptionally responsive and appreciative crowd with songs like the countrified ‘shelter in your arms’ and a stunning ‘hand in the fire’. With the crowd demanding more, Niall is even able to return to the stage to deliver his fast paced, gloriously ramshackle ‘nobody’s fault but my own’ and even then he still leaves the crowd howling for more, which is surely the mark of a truly special musician. Like Ian, Niall has a natural charm and his banter between songs and engaging stage presence keeps things fresh and lively and it’s fair to say that his slot passes all too quickly.
By the time Ian comes on stage the audience are crammed into the tight confines of the jazz café like sardines. The cheer that greets Ian and his band is warm and genuine and throughout the show there is a wonderful rapport between artist and audience that helps to mark the gig out as a very special event. Ian is on top form throughout, happily chatting to the crowd and frequently showing his appreciation for the awesome (in the truest sense of the word) talent that is Dusty Ciggaar. Kicking off with ‘writing on the wall’, Ian is in irrepressible form. We get a funky, twisted cover of ‘Get up (I feel like being a) sex machine’ and a blistering ‘I’m the train’ and there’s no sign of slowing down. A faithfully gritty cover of that Tom Waits classic ‘Jockey full of bourbon’ (also covered by Joe Bonamassa) does no harm whilst ‘John the Revelator’ features the sort of transcendental soloing you normally expect to hear at a Clapton gig. It’s a concert that sees the time fly by in nano-seconds, every moment offering up some new musical adventure powered by a mix of Ian’s endlessly engaging stage presence and Dusty Ciggaar’s immense guitar work.
As promised, the London show is special for reasons above beyond the fact that this is one of the most entertaining blues shows you can see and towards the show’s conclusion, Ian brings out the guests! First up we get Carmen Vandenburg and Rosie Bones who leap on stage for a rousing cover of the Beatles’ classic ‘helter Skelter’ which sends the crowd wild. It’s a great version of a cracking tune and everyone on stage looks like they’re having a blast as they kick the song into orbit. By this stage all Ian needs to do is smile and the normally reserved London crowd goes ballistic, but instead he breaks out the classic ‘queen of the junior prom’ before leaving the stage to one of the loudest cries for an encore I’ve witnessed in an age. Fortunately Ian has one more trick up his sleeve and he returns with Niall and Caitlin Kelly for one final song (Bob Dylan’s ‘I will be released’) lest a riot break out. It’s the perfect end to a remarkable evening, an evening where time seemed suspended and the only thing that mattered was the beautiful music and the wonderful atmosphere of the packed-out Jazz Café. It is such a pleasure to see such a genuine, passionate artist receive such a genuine, passionate response from an audience and if you missed out on Ian Siegal as he toured around the country then you need to track down his masterly new live album now because it captures an artist at his peak. An immensely memorable show,