G Love and Special Sauce
Manchester Academy 3 - 27/05/07
Support on the night is provided by MHB (The Martin Harley Band) from Guilford, Surrey. MHB play a fairly authentic American East coast blues along the lines of George Thorogood or Jimmy Thackery and are delivering their blues in a lively, punchy manor.
Their half an hour floats by nicely as they power through their set of drawling, slide guitar driven foot-stompers, warming up the crowd nicely for the main act. You can find out more at: http://www.martinharley.com/joom/index.php
There's a quick equipment switch, then G Love and Special Sauce take the stage. It was back in 1994 when I first became aware of this band. Their fluid mix of blues, hip-hop and general good vibes hasn't changed much over their five or six albums and although they have swung in and out of fashion, G Love and Special Sauce have a uniqueness that most bands would kill for.
"Yeah Baby, how you doing Manchester" in a Philadelphia accent resonates around the venue and the band strike up their first track. You can tell that G Love and Special Sauce are old pros, within seconds they are into the groove and making a tight and exultant live sound.
The band power through three new tracks before hitting the audience with the crowd pleasing "Blues Music". I first heard this song on a Jools Holland show back in the mid nineties and from first listen onwards have been smitten with the sound. For all of you out there that haven't heard this band, I will try and describe the sound of this track - we're talking slow slack hip-hop drums, jazzy double bass slides and a slow bluesy rap about the musical greats of yesterday - drawling harmonica adds the tension and it all comes together with a head bobbing catchiness. The band takes the track "Blues Music" and transforms it first into "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed and then "Can I Kick it" by Tribe Called Quest - further emphasizing their old/modern influences.
There's a mention of James Brown in the lyrics, as one of the musical greats which gets a quick "RIP" and peace sign added to it. The track goes down a storm and after it G Love adds "It's great to be in Manchester, it must be 10 years since we last played here - thanks for coming back!"
Sticking to their debut album the band start up "Baby's got Sauce" which goes down brilliantly and G Love plays slide guitar using his microphone.
Then come a few acoustic tracks, taking the mood down to a more personal and rooty level - G Love runs through "Still Hanging around/Sneakster" which features some exquisite harmonica playing and at the audiences request "Willow Tree" with the lyrics "Let me be your weeping willow tree, Surround you with my long limbs".
The band retake to the stage and crack up the serene "This Aint Living" followed by the more groovy "Cold Beverages" which has Snoop Dogg's Gin and Juice rap cut into it "With so much drama in the l-b-c, Its kinda hard bein snoop double d -o- g, But i, somehow, some way, Keep comin up with funky ass shit like every single day".
The band get their introduction to the audience and little solo moments that go down very well with the audience. Jimmy Jam gives a mini bass solo followed by Jeffery "Houseman" Clemens drum solo and the keyboard player, a new addition to the live show, makes his Hammond organ cry.
"Its 22 minutes `till the curfew" says G Love. "I'll play 23, to make sure you're getting your moneys worth" G Love delivers more of his Bob Dylan/Curtis Mayfield/Beastie Boys amalgam using the Beatles "Help" lyrics over a New Orleans swing beat and the audience are thinking they could watch this for hours - but time is running out on this Sunday evening.
There's a final jam around an up-beat chord sequence, then it's all over. It isn't very often a new blues artist breaks through these days without sounding like a student of the blues, G Love has true "blues man authority "and is bringing the blues into the 21st century - long may he continue to do so.
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