Every May Burnley has something to smile about. This weekend not only did the local football team finish higher than its Lancashire rivals in the Championship but the music festival was on at the mechanics for the 25th year. Originally a blues festival it’s been retitled Rock and Blues but still has the original feel with acts appearing at American-themed venues all over town.
On Saturday Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes were the headliners on the main stage but I saved my hard-earned money for Sunday night and the Zombies. They were the headline act but with support from Paul Jones and Dave Kelly, Lucy Zirins, and Wishbone Ash.
I remember Paul Jones from his days as lead singer with Manfred Mann, a jazz-influenced group which played R&B and soul covers as well as their own material and probably best remembered for Do Wah Diddy, a cover of a song recorded by the Exciters (who also recorded Tell Him and He’s got the Power ,which was covered by Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders – but that’s another story), and 5-4-3-2-1 the TV theme tune for Ready, Steady Go.
Paul Jones left the band in 1966 to concentrate on acting. He has since appeared in films and on TV, played with a variety of R&B outfits and has presented a long-running R&B show on BBC radio 2.
I have to say I hadn’t heard of Dave Kelly before (my appreciation of British Blues performers limited to the late elder blues statesman Alexis Korner – not forgetting the crop of followers who formed their own bands, and Peter Green in his heyday) but a quick search on the internet shows he’s a highly respected blues singer, guitarist and composer. And together they played a great set including the classic Robert Johnson song “Dust my Broom”.
Another artist I hadn’t heard of was Lucy Zirins, a 21 year old Burnley singer/songwriter who is attracting a lot of attention on the folk-blues circuit and has been nominated for the British Blues Awards in the young artist category.
She has a great voice and came over as a genuine and modest individual expressing her delight at playing the main stage in her home town.
Her short set was followed by a big name from the 1970s, long before she was born, Wishbone Ash.
Wishbone Ash isn’t a group I ever followed (being a fan of sixties music, stax and soul) although I knew their reputation for their twin lead guitar playing.
They played both songs from their back catalogues and songs from their new album “Elegant Stealth” such as “Man with no name”.
Finally the headline band The Zombies took the stage. Celebrating 50 years as a group – not exactly the same line-up but with Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone together again as good as it gets.
After running through half-a-dozen numbers non-stop Colin Blunstone explained that they were going to alternate between their back catalogue and newer material to give fans a sense of what they’d been doing over the last 50 years!
But once that was fixed and as the set went on he became more animated and engaged the crowd
Nostalgia is big and my guess is that while everyone enjoyed everything incthe set, which included a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”, most fans wanted to hear classics like “Season of the Witch” and “She’s Not There”.
And we heard both those, the latter as their closing number, to round off at a great evening at the Burnley 2013 International Rock and Blues Festival.