I wasn’t sure what to expect when I headed up to The Fermain Tavern on Friday 2nd March to see a band billed as Dr Feelgood – I was under no illusion as to this being the ‘classic’ line up and so my hopes were not that high, but I was to be pleasantly surprised.
Before Dr Feelgood took to the stage it was Guernsey blues rockers Wild Card who had the job of starting off the live music.
Mixing a few originals with some covers the band’s sound is that of classic blues with a rocky edge and suited the night well, combining some more driven upbeat numbers with more slow-paced soulful blues sounds.
In the past Wild Card have sometimes fallen into the trap that many blues bands do of extending instrumental passages well beyond their welcome which has killed the momentum of their set.
Tonight however, more confined by a fixed support slot time, their music moved with the necessary pace to keep it interesting.
Wild Card also debuted something new tonight in the form of keyboard player Lisa Murfitt. This added an extra dimension to their sound, which, while only in an early stage, showed promise of a great depth to their music in the future.
After a short break to set up the drum kit and clear Wild Card’s kit off the stage it was time for the Canvey Island pub rockers to take to the stage.
At the start of the set I was concerned as to the pedigree of this version of Dr Feelgood, however after a few songs, and certainly by the time they stormed through Milk and Alcohol, my concerns had been put firmly to one side.
This version of the band have been playing together for over a decade and in that time have clearly learnt how to work together brilliantly and exude something of the much talked about essence of the original line up as four slightly edgy guys turning up to play a show, but add their own spirit to it as well.
Highlights came from guitarist Steve Walwyn (who has been with the band since 1989) who played like a demon, taking rhythm and blues to new places and adding a real kick and energy to the music and front man Robert Kane who owned the stage from the start and even got the somewhat reluctant crowd involved on a few occasions (no mean feat) with a style that fell somewhere between Lee Brilleaux and Lux Interior (though with Lux’s unique insanity).
This was backed up by an effortless rhythm section who underpinned the more flamboyant other half of the band and showed their experience both having been Feelgoods since 1983.
By the end of the set a few of the more enthusiastic crowd members were moving on the dancefloor and the band were called back onto stage for an encore and after that many still wanted more as the band headed off stage.
While they may not have had the effortless chemistry of Lee Brilleaux and Wilko Johnson in the mid-1970s, Dr Feelgood tonight showed why they are still going and gave those at the Fermain Tavern a great night’s rhythm and blues entertainment.