Ronnie Wood & Friends at the Hammersmith Apollo
As an exciting component to Blues Fest 2012, the iconic Rolling Stones guitarist, Ronnie Wood, sauntered onto stage with a seven-year-old boy, to roaring applause. The 65 year old, styled in a white T-shirt and white trousers with a ‘Final Fantasy’ spiky mop, put his arm around the boy and growled into the microphone. We could barely hear what he was saying with the cheers and cries ricocheting around us. They began to play together, snippets from the legendary Chess Records Label. They performed 20 seconds of various songs by artists such as Etta James, Chuck Berry and Muddy Walters, demonstrating a brief history of rock and roll before the concert began. The nostalgic melodies propelled the Hammersmith Apollo back three decades, and the anticipation was almost tangible.
After this unusual but galvanising warm up, it was time to introduce his “friends.” We are not talking about his mate Dave from down the pub, or Alistair who he occasionally jams with on weekends, no, out strolled Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, amongst ten other iconic 60s figures. The excitement reverberated through the audience as each took their position. The first chords of Tommy Tuckers, Hi Heeled Sneakers were less like rolling stones, and more like catapulting boulders through our eardrums. The sound thundered out of multiple Harmonicas, Saxophones, Guitars, Pianos, Drums, and bounced off the walls. Ronnie Wood confidently led his mini orchestra from start to finish, but each star had a chance to sparkle. The husky, rumbling, bluesy voices powered from each of their throats in turn, and harmonica solos almost lifted the roof off the Hammersmith Apollo. Most notably was Never Can Tell, in which Bill Wyman shone, and the counterpoint between Wood and Taylor in The Sun is Shining, was impressive. In fact this was the only moment that Mick Taylor was enthusiastic. With an injured foot, he was generally far from fiery, as he twiddled about on his guitar, glued to his stool.
Ronnie Wood bounded around the stage youthfully throughout. Among favourites included At Last, in which Beverly Skeete took centre stage, Johnny be Goode and finally I Just Wanna Make Love, which would have been a great way to end the show. The encores were disappointing.
The show comprised of many classics from the Chess catalogue, transporting us back to the 60s/70s, sentimentally and strikingly. However, being nit-picky, Taylor was lukewarm to say the least, and Wood’s communication with the audience left much up to guesswork. The stage was cluttered and disorganised, the audience sometimes left unable to even locate the open mouth and microphone. However, these details are less important when most of the audience were on their feet by the end, dancing to the Bluesy grooves and shuffles, as they bopped unreservedly between the isles.
The successes of the Rolling Stones have straddled five decades, and Wood’s erratic appearances seem fit to continue as he agelessly blows enormous crowds away with his charisma and astounding guitar riffs.