Booker T Jones

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Booker T Jones

Booker T Jones

Posted: 25 Jul 2014

Sage Gateshead
20 July

Closing off the ninth annual Sage Summertyne weekend, Booker T Jones arrived on stage to a warm welcome looking suitably dapper – and with minimum fuss, got straight down to business at the keyboard of his mighty Hammond B3 Organ, fittingly raised off the stage on a pedestal.

Opening a 12-song set with one of seven instrumentals, Jones reached back into his MG’s songbook for “Hip Hug-Her” – a 1967 album track given a contemporary touch by his rapping drummer. And what proved to be both an educational and engaging feature of the evening saw him preface songs with a brief anecdote by way of introduction.

Thus “Born Under A Bad Sign” was confirmed as his own composition especially for bluesman Albert King and “Green Onions” written by Jones when a 17 year-old high school student. A change of mood then saw Booker leave the keyboards to strap on a Stratocaster for a version of “Hey Joe” that underscored his revelation of childhood prowess on the ukelele (although his guitarist stepped forward for the flashy fret-bending bits).

Arriving at “Soul Limbo” (aka the BBC cricket theme) via Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” and film theme “Hang ‘Em High”, what was threatening to become a Memphis version of the “Good Old Days” was then given a more contemporary twist by a seriously loud cover of “Everything is Everything” by the Fugees.

A much-anticipated set-closer “Time Is Tight” certainly didn’t disappoint and after departing to a standing ovation Booker was quickly back to deliver an uninvolving instrumental cover of“Hey Ya” by Outkast that initially seemed to have needlessly dulled the mood.

Over half a century doing this stuff though has taught him a few stage craft tricks, though, and that track soon segued into a blessed reading of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” that lacked only the Stax Horns to be absolutely perfect. Otis Redding’s 1965 original featured Jones on keyboards and tonight he played the organ before calmly walking across the stage and concluding on guitar.

PS: Despite a hectic schedule that saw him in the UK following gigs in Australia, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, France and Germany, Booker had acquired enough local awareness during his brief time here to know he was in Gateshead rather than Newcastle – and certainly not in Sunderland!

 Mike Bolam

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