PETER DONEGAN & THE LONNIE DONEGAN BAND – Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon (30.09.10)

I didn’t know quite what to expect when I entered the Ashcroft Theatre for this evening’s performance by Lonnie Donegan’s son Peter although perhaps the IKEA showroom wasn’t one of them. Possibly this was due in part to the other country tinged concert by Beth Neilson-Chapman in the main hall…or, more than likely…“True Blood” on the TV? Whatever, the last time I witnessed this personable young man was at the less than salubrious surroundings of the Viking Club in Selsey but at least it was stuffed with an expectant crowd hoping and getting a set predominantly geared to his father’s legacy of songs. Peter has a nice ‘easy-going’ quality and to the front row of the audience he could do no wrong but I must admit personally that in his capacity as a solo performer he seemed ill at ease reminding me more of a floor-singer with first night nerves at a folk club. Starting with “The Grand Coulee Dam”, “Jesse James” and “Worried Man Blues” he was bound to be preaching to the converted but lacking in the drive a full band could provide. The inclusion of his own mandolin led “Sanctuary Road” (not dissimilar to Steve Earle’s classic “Copperhead Road”) was upbeat but why try an under rehearsed “Nobody’s Child” even if it was at the request of a member of the audience. It was far too slow and laborious. It wasn’t until the end of his first forty minute set that things livened up backed by ‘Sticky’ Wicket on percussion and Eddie Masters on bass with more of Lonnie’s material “Bring A Little Water Sylvie”, “Pick A Bale O’Cotton” and the banjo injected “Have A Drink On Me”. So onto the second set where he was joined by the rest of the ‘band’ the astonishingly talented John Clare on country lead guitar (presumably from The Bruvvers) or ‘Johnny Dep’ as he’s known to Peter deputising for Paul Henry and ‘Big’ Chris Hunt on drums. As was obvious from the enjoyment expressed by the audience it was the big hits “Battle Of New Orleans”, “Corrine Corrina”, “Irene, Goodnight” and “Rock Island Line” that everyone had come for although it has to be said that Peter’s own “Angel Of The Night” was particularly well received. On a final note and without wishing to sound churlish, perhaps it might be better if billed as ‘with’ The Lonnie Donegan Band it might be better to concentrate on Lonnie’s material and work on an Arts Centre tour with his own songs.


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