The Bullingdon became a hothouse of belted blues and soaring soul last night as Earl Thomas transported the crowd right on down to the Mississippi Delta and beyond.
The evening really hit its groove with Earl’s cover of the Etta James classic, I’d Rather Go Blind. Earl worked with Etta James and wrote her acclaimed hit, I Sing the Blues, and his respect and love for her was evident in his heartfelt extended rendition. ‘Now I’m feeling good,’ he said as he moved the microphone away and projected his voice right to the back of the venue with aching ease.
His musicianship is made even more astounding when you realise Earl missed sound check, arrived after 27 hours travelling and, having not played with his band in over six months, simply jumped straight in and let rip.
A songwriter, an absolutely incredible singer and a naturally charismatic performer, Earl took us on an emotional rollercoaster through his own songs as well as a number of impeccable blues covers from Warren Haynes Soulshine to Ike and Tina’s A Love Like Yours.
Earl Thomas’ stage presence is anything but understated. He is a man that wore double denim and made it look cool; he is a man that knows how to strut his stuff and he is a man that can take moves made famous by Tina and make them his own.
The tales of relationships, ‘you know, the co-dependent, dysfunctional kind’ continued, including a few instrumental solos from Earl’s beautifully talented backing band. The blues guitar twanged straight into your soul, while the Hammond Organ got your hips swaying and the brass section got you swooning.
It’s also worth mentioning local support act, Vienna Ditto, who brought their usual psychedelic, gospel, rocking sound to The Bullingdon last night. Hatty’s haunting vocals and Nigel’s contorted, Tigger-like guitar and synth playing are always entrancing.
Earl himself even paused part way through I Sing the Blues to give a much-deserved shout out to the band and in particular their lyric, ‘I’m feeling strained and smoking, chained and choking, fingerlicking, pistol-whipping good.’ ‘I wish I’d written that,’ said Earl.
Earl Thomas left the stage to rapturous chants and, upon his return, surprised us all by talking about his love of all things Rod Stewart and, as a tribute, sang Had Me a Real Good Time. And indeed we all did.