Coast Blues & Roots Festival, Byron Bay
Last Update: 03. oktober 2003
A bit of background. I last saw Love in the mid 70s during his tours of England but have been living and working in Papua New Guinea since 1980. Reading about the revitalisation, or should be rebirth, of Arthur I was delighted to read he was due to make his first ever visit to Australia.
So … that trip from Port Moresby to stay with friends on the Gold Coast was suddenly fast forwarded. Arrived at the festival site and found that Arthur was due to play at 7pm, preceded by Robert Randolph and followed by Jimmy Vaughan and Michael Franti. This did not sound like a Love crowd. There were three marquees set up and Arthur played on the main stage at the same time as Eric Burden and the New Animals were on the 2nd. Dumb programming and the bulk - some 75% I would guess - opted for Burden. This left maybe 1500 or so who were sparsely spread around the main arena. No matter, it was easy to get a good spot.
As Arthur ambled out to join the band, one thing struck me immediately - he looked so happy, smiling behind the shades. I remember him as being rather moody and rambling between songs. None of that here. Lined the band up - 1,2,3,4 and they were into 7 and 7 Is. All doubts ended. He was truly magnificent, although he only played for about 70 minutes. I would have loved to have witnessed the full set. We got all but a couple of songs from Forever Changes along with a selection from other albums. He went down well, especially when Mike stretched out a little on the solos (remember this was a blues crowd) and there must have been 100 or so at the front who, like me, had turned up purely for Love.
One thing worried me a little as I came down to earth with a couple of cold ones, as the Australians call them - is he so great because of the old songs that he is playing and audiences are on a nostalgia trip? At some point, very soon I hope, he will be releasing an album of new material. Presumably this will then form the core of his set. I only hope that these new songs will stand up to the older ones. There were no new songs here.
Despite there being relatively few watching the reaction have been a number of complimentary comments on the Festival bulletin board. The following posting sums up the general feeling - as for me, give me more!
'Love with Arthur Lee was a trip back to psychedelic California, but a lesson in how to play great concise pop songs with a powerhouse band, lots of space and subtlety, jangly 70's guitars without the too-heavy bass sounds. He did a lot of the songs from Forever Changes, including a spectacular rendition of The Red Telephone. When he took off his sunglasses, asked the audience to look into his eyes and ominously chanted, " They're locking them up today, they're throwing away the key" and then inquired, "I wonder who it'll be tomorrow, you or me?" it was spine-chilling. And then he threw in a great version of Instant Karma. He was reminiscent of many great 70's performers such as Van Morrison, Burdon and Hendrix in his electric storytelling.'