There is little better than a night at a packed out Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho – especially when an artist of the sheer quality of Eric Bibb is playing.
Backed up by Paul Robinson (ex-Nina Simone) on drums, Neville Malcom on bass and Stefan Asssner on electric guitar, he laid down two sets of originals and Blues classics that had the capacity crowd completely enraptured.
His whole demeanour is gentle and open, he sings with a soft and warm tone to it and, as a performer, he puts a song over to the audience in a way that the words take on their full meaning, offering insights even into the oldest of material.
He told a little story with every song, each one relevant and adding to the material in subtle ways.
Opening with ‘Goin’ Down Slow’ with just him on guitar he talked about the origins of the song and the way that it had been sung by both black and white performers since it was written in 1931 and the song took on extra dimensions because of his insights.
‘Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad’ with the whole band was wonderful, opening up the story of the share-cropper whose eventual slide had brought him to a bitter end.
He got the whole audience singing along with a lovely version of ‘The Needed Time’, explaining how Taj Mahal had brought him to the classic song.
The best numbers of the night were self-penned numbers such as ‘Turner Station’ or the delightful ‘Panama Hat’ but for me the best of the night was his ‘On My Way To Bamako’ where he talked about returning to Africa after a gap of about 400 years, the whole song bringing the rhythms of Mali and West Africa back into the Blues idiom.
Eric Bibb is not a traditional showman but he makes friends of the audience and makes the music real and vital. Someone you should make an effort to see – it will make your life better.