This was the welcome return of Wilko Johnson to live performance with a sold-out charity benefit concert for Addenbrooke’s Hospital, after their pioneering surgery led to a cure for his cancer.
The musical atmosphere had been well set up by support band Eight Rounds Rapid, with their sharp, smart punk-fuelled R&B, reminding me what a potent instrumental combination guitar (played by Wilko’s son Simon), bass and drums can be, topped with sneering vocals from David Alexander.
Then an emotional ovation as Wilko and his band arrived on stage. Any doubts that his musical edge had been blunted were quickly dispelled. He has an electric stage presence, strutting and staring, at one with his guitar. His style of playing incorporates percussive chops with short lead lines and patterns built in, shown to good effect in ‘Sneaking Suspicion’ and of course the classic ‘Roxette’. The recent collaboration album (with Roger Daltry) was heavily featured including triumphant title track ‘Going Back Home’, with the timely opening line ‘I wanna live the way I like…’. Norman Watt-Roy was coaxing and wrenching jazzy lines from his bass and solid drumming was provided by Dylan Howe.
There was a discernible ripple of concern in the crowd when Wilko left the stage after 40 mins during ‘ Everybody’s Carrying A Gun’ but we need not have worried, he was soon back having allowed time for more bass acrobatics from Norman. A long encore of ‘Bye Bye Johnny’, heartfelt thanks to the hospital staff and he was gone (but he will be back for the Cambridge Folk Festival…)