Edinburgh Queen’s Hall
Imagine if Van Morrison wasn’t such a prick.
You might get a man like Eric Bibb.
Like troubled slapable East Belfast troubadour Van, Mr Bibb surrounds himself with top notch musicians has a back catalogue spanning 5 decades and inspires a devoted following.
Unlike Van he has yet to duet with Cliff.
The much garlanded blues country dixie funk gospel GeeTarr legend Mr Bibb commands a silence in Edinburgh’s suitably pious Queens Hall like The Crucible with Ronnie on the last black of a 147.
Mr. Bibb is an affable host, regaling the rapt audience with tales of his New York childhood where his parents entertained the likes of Joni Mitchel Dylan, Pete Seeger and Westlife (so it begins. Ed.). The Dad Leon was a musician and activist. He was with Doctor King on the Selma Montgomery marches. Al Robeson is the man’s Godfather.
Political literacy and an upbringing in the East Village ‘Folk Renaissance’ of Sixties Manhattan clearly informed his magpie interest in musical styles plucked from the American Songbook and beyond. A thread of considered anger, protest and spiritual optimism weaves through the music.
And he can play the blues no mistake.
The righteous funk of 12 Bar stomper ‘Send Us’ testifying to that.
More much more than that his sound saunters through the crossroads of JJ Cale’s soporific dixie crooning taking in Lambchop past the Rev Al Green Church vibes and veers off occasionally to Meddle type Floyd paying visits to Joni Mitchell’s completely fictitious residency at the Taj Mahal along the way.
He got his first guitar, steel string, when he was seven. Further adventures led the man via Colombia University to Europe and Scandinavia where he met and married tonights guest vocalist Sari Matinlassi happily absorbing music along the way. as is evidenced by tonights genre promiscuous set.
Perched up front, flanked by guitarist/support act Michael Jerome Browne and backed by Keyboardist bassist vocalist Glen Scott with percussionist (not tall ) Paul Robinson behind, Mr. Bibb smiles benevolently at us from under a deeply groovy hat.
Like Clint Eastwood after he has dispatched the henchmen of the exploitative local cattle rancher, saved the school, rogered the teacher and made friends with a horse. (Haven’t seen that one, Ed.) Mr. Bibb’s set wanders all trails from the old school trad of ‘900 miles’, quasi cum by yah gospel in ‘Can You see me coming’ to proper call and response thankfully non cringe inducing audience participation sing a long ‘I wish I was a mole in the ground’
There are more arrows in this mans musical quiver than strings on accompanist Michael Jerome Brown’s selection of twelve strings.
Mr Browne is a legend in his own right.
Of whom my wingman Hippy D was moved to opine
‘Mate.. the honky is a shit hot guitarist’
I can think of no higher praise
and Hippy D saw Hendrix at the Isle of Wight.*
The much lauded septuagenarian Eric Bibb and co are promoting their latest offering Ridin’
In the process they provide an evenings masterclass of laidback virtuoso twanging.
Interspersed with a few well travelled gags
‘Tuning is like aircraft maintenance. always worth it’
*(This just in: Hippy D didn’t see Hendrix at the Isle of Wight Festival, where he played what is generally regarded as the best set ever, ever. because he turned back to London to get wasted as he can ‘always see him next year’. Muppet)