Danny and the Champions of the World
Jumping Hot Club
The Cluny, Newcastle
December 19th 2015
Regardless of family, friends and work my diary is always cleared for the Jumping Hot Club Christmas Party. This year was no different; and possibly more special than usual because the headline act was, club regulars Danny and The Champions of the World who are currently riding something of a wave of success.
The opening turn were King Size Voodoo Traveller; the latest incarnation for local legend Ally Lee.
As the man himself pointed out; they are a ‘Glorified Pub Band’ but ‘without the Glory!’ Which is actually a bit harsh; because all four musicians are truly excellent in their own rites; but only the fickle finger of fate meant they were the support tonight and not headlining somewhere grander.
As usual Ally’s introductions were self-depreciating and very funny; especially when he told us Steve Earle was living in Alnwick when he wrote his ode to the A1 – Hillbilly Highway! The song was a doozy from start to finish; as was their Twang infested version of the Breeze; but the stand out song was Mercury Blues; stripped down and as raw as a Street racer.
The only downside was Ally getting drawn into a battle of wits with a lump of a drunk at the front of the stage. Sadly the bloke thought he was part of the act all night long and even managed to upset Danny later in the night.
Cluny II was pretty damn full when Danny came onto the stage and received a roar from the 150 or so in attendance. Sadly, the singer was just setting up his guitar; but took the time to engage with the fans who made fun of his freshly shaved face.
Ten minutes later; the band did make their full appearance; and again the cheer was worthy of a 1D concert.
While absolutely fabulous, and full of Crazy Horse style fuzzy guitar interplay; I didn’t actually recognise the opening son Consider Me. Perhaps it was a teaser for a new album; I hope so!
Song two was Colonel and The King; and my heart skipped a beat when ‘Free Jazz’ Geoff seamlessly slid in a sax solo from the Gods.
Song three; and it was Every Beat of My Heart; a love song par excellence in my humble opinion. Even this early in the gig I was wondering what they had left in the tank; as each member was already ‘giving it their all’ and those songs were each worthy of any legendary Americana act you can think of.
What more can I say? Danny’s voice has never sounded finer (was the beard muffling his larynx?); guitarist extraordinaire, Mr. Paul Lush got to showcase his skills several times throughout the night; especially memorable on Keep Building that Space Rocket and later What Kind of Love, when his guitar appeared to sizzle.
No Americana band can be without a pedal-steel; and the Champs are no different; but in Henry Senior Jr. they actually have a Master Craftsman; who can make those strings sound like an Angel’s harp (am I getting too carried away here?); then there is the rhythm section of Chris Clarke on bass and drummer Steve Brookes who combine to keep time better than my Dad’s Rolex.
Have I missed someone? Of course! “Free Jazz’ Geoff on saxophone and keyboards; possibly the last piece in the jigsaw; but he’s the bit that makes Danny and the Champions of the World sound as good as they do and a whole lot different to your average band; or even above average band.
Back to the songs – Henry The Van got its usual run out; and became a happy go lucky sing-along for die hard fans; Red Tree Song managed to segue into Bruce’s Thunder Road and back again, without anyone noticing; then Stay True was as heartfelt as ever, but the slow and sensual Be Alright in The End was probably the highlight of the evening for me.
Wary of the curfew Danny told the ecstatic crowd that they would forgo the usual will they/won’t they charade of an encore and just play straight through; which they did for nearly two hours and the noise as they left the stage meant that they did return; for a passionate version of These Days; which sent 150+ fans home very satisfied indeed.
It doesn’t happen very often to South Londoners; but Danny and the Champions of the World are most definitely adopted Geordies now; and I can’t think of a finer accolade to bestow on them.
Danny photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/Danny-and-the-Champions-of-the/
Voodoo photo-set http://www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk/Music/King-Size-Voodoo-Traveller/