19th November 2016
The last time I heard Robb Johnson live was the London Gentle Men show, an acoustic, thoughtful story of the Great War and its consequences inspired by the experiences of his grandfathers. This was very different – Robb the rocker, the man who could front a Clash tribute band. The My Best Regards band are superb. There’s the mighty bass of John Forrester; Robb’s son Arvin who looks like an angel and drums like a demon and Jenny Carr on a slightly cheesy looking keyboard which, due to marvels of modern technology, produced some wonderful sounds including the electric organ that underpinned many of the songs. Then there’s Robb playing a vintage hollow-body Les Paul; what’s not to love?
I noticed very soon that Robb didn’t introduce a single song by name which means that I took some very bizarre notes although the songs from My Best Regards are still fresh in the mind. His introductions were sometimes a bit cryptic but the story behind ‘Better Than TV’ is almost better than the song. Afterwards, I blagged a set list but there doesn’t seem to be enough titles on it. Robb did remind me that they slipped in ‘We Hate The Tories’ in the middle: thanks Robb, I got that one.
They opened with a Johnson classic, ‘Night Café’ followed by ‘Here Goes Nothing’, the title track of last year’s album, ‘Bay Of Angels’ and ‘Carrying Your Smile’. The first track from the new album was ‘We All Got Wings’ followed by ‘Suzy’s Party’ (another off-the-wall intro) and ‘Dear Franz’. Robb is very disparaging about the folk scene these days which is a shame because folk clubs were, and still would be, receptive to his songs (although ‘The Mystery Beat’ wouldn’t be welcome at Cecil Sharp House, so perhaps he has reasons for his negativity) so ‘Sidmouth Promenade’ is a bit of dig at the middle-classness of folkies. Shame: ‘Hollingdean Lullabye’ should be sung every day somewhere. Their final encore was ‘The Magic Tonight’ which was an excellent summary of their show.
Support for the evening was Ed Goodale, a fine young singer-songwriter from Sussex, aided by his brother Ollie on cajon. I was immediately taken with his songs, which is unusual because I normally have to take my time getting into a new writer. The cajon is a bit limiting over a long set, although Ollie is a very fine player and they need to expand the percussion vocabulary. I haven’t heard Ed with his full band yet so that’s next on the list.