“It’s time to boogie woogie” enthused Charley Crockett in a snazzy new custom suit. He looks the part, he plays the part.
Having honed his performance and songwriting skills over 17 years, beginning on the streets in New Orleans, playing from 11:00 until the small hours, and working his way up from there, Crockett couldn’t contain his delight at his first headline London show at the Borderline Club in Soho.
Grinning from ear to ear throughout a 25-song set, yes, that’s right 25 songs, Crockett only briefly paused for witty quips to the audience who had hardly a moment’s respite from a relentless barrage of high-octane music.
His style is well defined and coherent, drawing from many influences, including blues, country, zydeco, Cajun. He has a coherent style and message. This is a performer who knows precisely who he is musically and how to deliver it.
The songs are short, most average under three minutes, perfectly crafted, catchy and lyrically smart “I ain’t got no future, I ain’t got no past”.
Crockett and his band had a ball onstage. No self-indulgent solos here, everything as tight, sharp and crisp as Crockett’s black shirt and slick suit.
With his regular US band of bass (double and then electric), lead electric guitar (Crockett himself plays rhythm throughout) and a multi-talented keyboardist/accordion who doubled on the trumpet (on occasions playing piano and trumpet together) supplemented by a drummer from Leeds joining for the UK tour as Charley’s regular drummer couldn’t make the trip.
Crockett thrilled constantly and when, halfway through the show he changed from acoustic to electric guitar, a switch flicked in his hips and with infectious enthusiasm he danced his way through the second half of the show whilst playing his guitar. This was good time music and the crowd responded in kind. His corny yet perfectly delivered patter was received with howls of laughter.
Kicking off with two tracks from his new CD, I Wanna Cry and the title track Lonesome as a Shadow, you knew you were in for a treat, even with a minor guitar malfunction which Crockett laughed off by saying “on the streets you don’t need no amplification”.
He slowed the pace a little with Help Me Georgia, delivered in a relaxed style and with a fabulous trumpet solo.
The songs came thick and fast for the next ninety minutes, and highlight tracks included Here Am I, Ain’t Got No Time, Look What You Done and the track he drove through the night for to perform on the Andrew Marr BBC show, the sensational Lil’ Girl’s Name.
Everyone had a good time. Couples were dancing throughout and the guy in the AC/DC T-shirt stole a dance with the lady in the floral dress.
Charley Crockett is the master of the one-liners. These are too good not to put into print:
“I used to drink. I still do.”
“If you like what you heard buy the music. If you don’t, give me money anyway for singing lessons. I’ll take the money but I ain’t buyin’ singin’ lessons.”
“We accept credit cards at the merch table. We just don’t give ‘em back.”
“Careful with that jacket. I ain’t paid for it yet.”
To a song request from the audience: “You give me £20 and I’ll play it for you afterwards in the back alley.”
And, in a twist on the famous Blues Brother’s quote: “We got both kinds of music, the honk and the tonk.”
Words by Chaz Brooks