Review: John Mayall & Shemekia Copeland at Pipeline

Nov. 19, 2010 | 0 Comments


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By Elizabeth Kieszkowski /

A nearly full house turned out for a concert by Shemekia Copeland and John Mayall Thursday night at Pipeline, for a lively revival show that paid appropriate homage to the blues masters who created American roots music and rock and roll.

This was a sophisticated show, and it started on time. I had a dinner date and couldn’t get there before 9 p.m., so I was sad to miss an acoustic set by Shemekia Copeland, legendary blues guitarist Johnny Copeland’s daughter.

After I arrived, Mayall and band went on to play a show that lasted 95 minutes-plus.

What I can tell you is that this was an enthusiastic crowd and show.

John Mayall started right out with classic blues: “All Your Love,” by Otis Rush, a primary source of inspiration for Mayall. Rush takes a similar deliberate approach, though his guitar licks are in a genre of their own.

The source material is primo — a starting point for “blues with a feeling,” rock-a-billy and more Americana, and that’s the point. While Rush has it all, it was still supremely satisfying to hear the emotional lyrics and chiming guitar of seminal blues music as contributed by Mayall and band.

The rest of the show was equally respectful and competent, entertaining and inspiring, with plenty of timeless breaks played off between the guitarist and Mayall on Rowland keyboard. The back-up band was a kick: They filled the bill as blues rockers.

With “Ridin’ on the L & N,” the band forged a “Peter Gunn” beat out of another prime influence — Llonel Hampton. “We changed it around a little,” Mayall said honestly, as the band launched into its jam.

The long-haired bass player put down a heavy backbeat to the show. And there was plenty of extended vamping — vaudevillian and dynamic, extremely appealing to lovers of seventies rock.

If all that wasn’t enough: Oldsters who remembered the first wave of British blues were treated to a special treat when John McVie of Fleetwood Mac, who played bass with Mayall way back when as part of the Bluesbreakers and now spends a good bit of his time in Maui, stepped up on stage for a couple of songs with the band. McVie was extremely gracious, taking time after his appearance to speak with everyone who wanted a word.

The John Mayall concert was all about paying homage and carrying on traditions of American roots rock. The vibe was smooth, the rhythm steady. Mayall’s voice didn’t carry at times, but built up as the night went on, and he was in control of a challenging program of songs throughout.

Did I mention that it was classic?

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