Wilko Johnson – Llangollen Fringe Festival – live review

Wilko Johnson
Wales, Llangollen Fringe Festival
6 July 2012 

Wilko Johnson performs a superb set of solo and Dr Feelgood classics at this year’s Llangollen Fringe Festival. 

Llangollen Fringe is established as one of the best music and arts festivals on the circuit and this year is no exception, offering a wide range of literature, spoken word and live music.

The appearance of Wilko Johnson was hotly anticipated by a sell out audience at Llangollen Town Hall, an atmospheric yet intimate venue right at the heart of this small North Wales town that is so culturally vibrant.

Torrential rain earlier in the day had done nothing to dampen the expectations of this knowledgeable crowd and they would not be disappointed as their hero took the stage to rapturous applause.

Pausing only to adjust his guitar with its famous spiral red lead, which has the desired effect of making Wilko look like he’s on a spring, he launched straight in to a set that comprised both Dr Feelgood and solo classics.

Cheers rose from the crowd as he performed his first of many shimmies and struts across the stage before launching into his trademark use of the guitar to imitate a machine gun. ”ËœIf You Want Me You’ve Got Me’, ”ËœThe More I Give’ and ”ËœBarbed Wire Blues’ are followed by the classic ”ËœRoxette’ and ”ËœSneakin’ Suspicion’.

Standing right by the stage we are fortunate to see close up Wilko’s mastery of the guitar as he blasts out both lead and rhythm riffs without using a plectrum. With the tightest of rhythm sections, Wilko only needs to play the opening bars of a song before the others come in with well-honed, high class R and B.

Watching Norman Watt-Roy would be worth the admission money alone as he seems to be waging a constant war to dominate the animal bass in his clutches and working up an honest sweat in the process. What a performer he is and we are rewarded later in the set with a mind-blowing bass solo followed by a fine drum break.

The set builds to a climax with ”ËœDon’t Let Your Daddy Know’, ”ËœBack in the Night’ and of course ”ËœShe Does it Right’. Wilko returned to reward us with an extended encore of’ ”ËœBye Bye Johnny’ before leaving the stage for the final time having proved again what we all knew already, that there is simply no substitute for pure talent.

Wilko recently described his live performances as ”Ëœthree chords, twelve bars and lots of whizzing about’, but those who spilled out onto the wet streets of Llangollen know for sure that the words ”Ëœunparalleled’, ”Ëœlegendary’ and ”Ëœunique’ are an equally suitable description of Wilko Johnson and his special talent.

Wilko is on tour in the autumn; make sure you catch him if you can. For further info, please visit his website.

All words and image by Dave Jennings. You can read more from Dave on LTW here.

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  1. All well and good, but did he have to kill Ned Stark?! (I was at the gig, it was brilliant, what a lovely, talented guy).

  2. I went, Wilko was brilliant, as you’d expect, and your review is spot on, but i am a bit surprised you haven’t mentioned the support band, The Dave Elwyn band was it? who i thought did an outstanding job of getting us all in the mood for the main course with some brilliant guitar work and great sounding original songs. and surely earned the right to have, at least a nod of appreciation, from a connoisseur of fine music such as your self.


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