Thoughts on John Etheridge’s Blue Spirits, 25 January 2023

Peter Fairman said “John was Burning!”. Steve and Dave were away. Miles Dagnall wrote the following review of this gig.

If a rock band only needs three chords and the truth, what happens to the man who knows three thousand? Can he still maintain the authentic feeling expressed in the blues and marry it with the technique necessary for accomplished jazz playing ? This is John Etheridge so the answer is of course, ‘yes’. Ably supported by this edition of his Blue Spirits with Pete Whittaker on keys and George Double on Drums, the trio delivered a set full of passion and inventiveness.

Starting with ‘Love, Lovely Love’ and an intense version of Ray Charles ‘You Don’t Know’, and a ‘Secret Love’ full of a skipping rhythm, highlights of the first set included John’s own Broken Hill – familiar to fans of Soft Machine – full of sweet and sour moments on both organ and guitar and an almost tangibly crunchy and riff-filled version of John Schofield’s’ Do Like Eddie’.

The music was interleaved throughout with heartfelt tributes to jeff Beck, who John had played with (naturally) dropping into snatches of Nessun Dorma and a moving version of Jeff’s favourite Stevie Wonder tune, ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers’. The range of John’s repertoire, included a delicate solo rendition of Rabbie Burns’, ‘My Love is Like Red Red Rose’ which morphed into Billie Holiday’s ‘Bless the Child’, and an inventive trio take on Hank William’s Cold Cold Heart, honouring the tune, while re-writing it with inventive sleight of hand – Pete’s funky chords and George’s precise drumming adding unexpected flavours . The gig ended with a passionate version of Hendrix’ Little Wing; George and Pete adding their own ideas to John’s blues- soaked playing. ‘Summertime’, as an encore, left the full house looking forward to warmer times, and glad they had braved a miserable January night to witness a master at work. 

Miles Dagnall