We were up at Top Bar extra early last Saturday (18th), The Driver and Me, as the Grand Impressario was otherwise engaged and had left us in charge. So we were well organised when TONY MCPHEE & JOANNA DEACON arrived. He was of lesser stature than I had anticipated but then Legends often are (think Nelson, or Napoleon). But they were very courteous people even if maybe they might have been a little disappointed in the venue (“Is there a dressing room?” “No.” “Who sets up the equipment?” “You do.” “Oh.”). But the equipment was set up and a sound check ensued and we were turning punters away at this early juncture in fairness to the performers.
When we did finally open the doors there was a steady influx and the room was comfortably full by the start. Mostly strangers, whom I presume had come along to see their hero who had an interesting carousel contraption on stage holding his three guitars.
The first guitar was an anonymous cut away acoustic which I’m sure was actually a very good instrument but I was a bit too busy behind the bar to notice. Anyway he used it to accompany himself on some bluesy numbers. Stuff from Howling Wolf and Sleepy John Estes although Tony’s unusual phrasing and timing made them a little hard to recognise.
Then a Gibson SJ, whereupon he attempted to recapture the glory days of the Groundhogs. Not totally successfully it must be admitted but then how does one man on a small stage recreate the sound of a psychedelic progressive power rock stadium band single-handedly. Especially the psychadelia. Maybe the Ibanez axe with its complex tremolo setup which he used to use might have helped. Or maybe the multi-tracking reverb feed back. Or perhaps it was just Pete Cruickshank and Ken Pustelnick on the podium. None of these was at The Queens so it’s a tricky one. To judge what it should have sounded like one needs to view the DVD, a copy of which the artist very kindly donated as a prize (and it’s autographed) for one of next week’s charity competitions. You have your chance.
And finally a Harmony – “The Best You Could Buy For The Money You Would Spend” – so ran the early advertising. One of the worlds oldest instrument makers, they often had more illustrious and better known logos on their guitars.
Tony pounded away enthusiastically on this venerable axe playing slide with nods to Son House and Fred McDowell. But the instrument is old, Harmony Guitars had their hey-day in the thirties with a resurgence in the sixties and early seventies and (as was explained to me) as this particular artifact has aged so it has lost its essential oils; the wood has become thin and fragile. Brittle and a bit worse for wear. But still loud nonetheless. It seemed appropriate for the occasion.
Throughout the evening his partner Joanna Deacon accompanied him on a number of songs and she has a pleasant voice as can be gauged from this week’s video. Click HERE and listen. Those who were there will know what it was like those who weren’t won’t know what they missed. Incidentally, regarding the videos; I don’t think they have been totally successful visually so I might make this the last one until things improve.