The Railway, Winchester
Henri is the focus but maybe this should’ve been billed as The Henri Herbert Trio because you won’t find a tighter three-piece says Ged Babey.
Henri Herbert is a genius. A master of his art. Probably the greatest piano-player I’ve ever seen. The way he attacks his instrument. He stands lent forwards, one leg forward, bent at the knee, the other one back (like a Ramones stance or being Under Starters Orders) The piano seems too low and the mic stand is set at a height of about three feet. He plays with a demonic intensity, gurning, grimacing and jutting his chin. He really is a maestro. I don’t even like Boogie-woogie piano as a rule. But the way Henri plays it I do.
Before I heard his Wired and You Say EP’s I guessed he’d get a singer in. He couldn’t possibly do the job himself and play piano like that. But he can. He has a clear distinctive voice albeit with a hint of Elvis in his delivery.
If you look at the photo above you’ll how Henri looks at the start of the set. Neatly combed quiff. Black leather jacket. A real classic James Dean kind of style. Now, below, is a photo of him an hour later after hammering and hollering his way through some of the best boogie-woogie pop’n’roll I’ve ever heard. Shirt absolutely drenched in sweat, hair a mess of wet curls, tumbling onto his pretty-boy face. He works hard for his money despite a bit of a sparse crowd (too many bloody festivals means gigs like this suffer attendence-wise)
A word about the drummer Nick Jones (Edinburgh, ex Jim Jones & Heavy Stereo) and bass-player (and occasional guitarist) Lucas Itie (Paris). They are both faultless and what I particularly noticed is the way they barely take their eyes off Henri throughout the set. Part of it is doing their job obviously, keeping it as tight as a ducks arse, but there is also a look of admiration and love and incredulity at the mans sheer energy and talent and total commitment to giving a 110% performance, and they do likewise.
Even when they leave the stage for Henri’s solo version of Oscars Boogie, they are still smiling and watching him like a hawk. As are the entire audience. Henri is captivating. He breathes new life into a vintage genre and makes it his own. It’s trad dad but it’s brand new and irresistible to any ears willing to listen.
All words by Ged Babey.Photos by Alex Dunlop. Full Flickr album by Steve McCathie here