Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Albert Lee opens his set at The Lowry with something of a mission statement – a blistering cover of I’m Ready that confirms his willingness and ability to rock’n’roll all night. Lee has played sideman / lead guitar for some of the greatest acts in popular music, which gives him legitimate access to a superb back catalogue.
Much of the set list comes from the country music genre, which gives rise to a potential problem, as Lee’s current band is a stripped-down ensemble (drummer Ollie Sears , Ross Spurdle on keys and bassist Ben Golding )lacking such country staples as fiddles. Lee is, therefore, dependent upon keyboard player Ross Spurdle to sweeten the melodies and to offer musical responses to his guitar solos. On the other hand, the rock vibe on the stage transforms a bittersweet county song like Runaway Train into a dramatic powerhouse with a roaring closing guitar solo.
The format of the concert is simple – Lee pays tribute to the acts with whom he has played in the past; which gives the audience the chance to hear pitch-perfect versions of classics by the likes of Gram Parsons and Rodney Crowell . Lee’s respect for those with whom he has worked is so great that even when he covers Ray Charles’s Leave My Woman Alone he does so in the style of The Everly Brothers.
Country rock songs dominate the setlist but, arguably, the high points of the evening are when Lee allows himself to cut loose on rockabilly classics by Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly. On occasion, Lee gets so carried away tearing out savage chords that he forgets to sing into the microphone. After such an awesome display of talent, no one complains.
Albert Lee takes a humble approach; constantly joking about his limited vocal prowess and his anecdotes rarely serves any purpose than to show how much Lee appreciates the opportunities he has had to work with the great talents in music. But that really does not matter as the audience simply wants to hear a master at work.
Strangely, considering Lee’s reputation as a guitar player there are only two songs that could be considered anthems- Lee’s own Country Boy and Richard Thompson’s Tear Stained Letter. In the main, Lee’s solos are taut and to the point, never dragging on to become tiresome pyrotechnic displays. But then Albert Lee is a showman and fully aware that the trick is to leave the audience wanting more – something he certainly achieves at The Lowry.
Reviewed on 13th May 2018 | Image: Contributed