The Black Box, Belfast
Thursday 11th August 2016

Andy Fairweather Low reminded the 200 plus crowd at the beginning of his gig in the Black Box that he had been in “the Business” for 50 years!

In that time he has had hits in the 60s with Amen Corner, been something of a teen idol in the 70s, and a go-to guitarist for the likes of Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Bill Wyman and many others, before relaunching his solo career as a soulful purveyor of the blues.

And on Thursday night, we got a little bit of everything, and more.

Just before quarter to nine, the 67-year-old bounded on stage with his Low Riders band in Beatle boots and a very sharp blue three piece suit. Indeed everything thing about his performance was sharp.

Starting with an instrumental piece to flex the fingers, leading on to ‘Hard Hat Boogie’, he had the crowd right behind him from the first note. Guitars were quickly changed as the pace continued.

Patter between songs was witty and self-deprecating as he made several quips regarding his longevity to an audience, who seemed well aware of advancing age. CDs were handed to Mr Low by the disembodied hand of the guitar tech at the side of the stage and plugged in a playful manner as the songs continued apace.

Seventies favourite ‘Spider Jiving’, had the crowd singing along before ‘Hymn To My Soul’ (covered by Joe Cocker) upped the atmosphere again.

His voice remains as strong and husky, as I remember it back in the day but it was his guitar playing that most impressed. Plectrums were flicked off the strings as he produced sweet soulful sounds beautifully supported by his band.

The rhythm section of Paul Beavis on Drums and Dave Bronze on Bass were tight all night, and the flourishes by Nick Pentelow on sax and particularly on clarinet were superb.

After a short break, the band were back with Mr Low in an even sharper three-piece black suit. The second set opened with a jumping ‘La Booga Rouga’, and then we were teased with a short potted history of what he had been doing since the 80s, The familiar refrain of ‘The Wall’ was short-lived before a similar snippet of Clapton’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’ reminded us of his time playing with Slowhand and Roger Waters of Pick Floyd.

Following on were two of the songs, he will probably be best remembered for; a singalong ‘Bend Me, Shape Me’, and a beautiful paced ‘Wide-Eyed and Legless’. The Welshman mixed it up with some more spectacular blues playing, with a nod to our own recently departed and much-missed guitar hero Henry McCullough.

Two more playful instrumentals, ‘Tequila’ and ‘Peter Gunn’, again allowed for some serious guitar work with plectrums now flying off the stage at a rate to give cause for concern for the eyesight of some in the front row.

A laid back, almost music hall, version of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Putting On The Style’, to me was the only misstep of the evening, although, I seemed to be in a minority judging by the crowd.

The gig ended with everyone singing along to ‘If Paradise Is Half As Nice’ and suddenly a joyful, mellow, hugely entertaining evening was over.

With such a vast repertoire, great musicianship, and a such a likeable personality, I hope the hugely talented Mr Low comes back to these shores soon.

For more from Eastside Arts and Woodstock Blues Festival, check out their official 2016 programme.