It is now just over 45 years since I went to my first gig (the Jackson 5 if you’re interested) and here I am still going, as are the incredible Average White Band. I saw them once in London back in the 70s and they were great back then. I can honestly say that they still are, in fact they are better than great. The Irish Centre is a magnificent venue, although this is only the second time that I have been here, the last was many years ago for Chumbawamba.
It always amazed me that a bunch of white Scottish blokes managed to out funk and pour more soul into their songs than some of the finest black soul and funk musicians that the USA could muster. When I first heard that phat slab of funk that is “Pick Up The Pieces” back in 1974 I assumed that it was by someone like the BarKays. I believed that for weeks until I read an article in the UK music press, probably Blues and Soul magazine.
There may only be two original members of AWB left in Onnie McIntyre (guitar) and Alan Gorrie (bass, keyboards and lead vocals), both of whom can still find the funk, but they have picked some stunning players to join them in the seven piece band that blew the crowd away at the Irish Centre tonight. I think they all deserve a mention; Rob Aries (keyboards and bass guitar), Cliff Lyons (alto and tenor sax), Fred Vigdor (tenor sax and keyboards), Rocky Bryant (drums and percussion) and Brent Carter (Lead Vocals).
When someone describes a band as ‘tight’ the Average White Band epitomise and define what it is to be a ‘tight’ band. At times they showed that they could have been backing James Brown and would never have been fined by the Godfather of Soul for playing a bum note. All the really big hits were aired tonight; “Pick Up The Pieces”, “Cut The Cake” and a stunning encore, with full crowd participation, of “Let’s Go Round Again”. Yes even I shook my rump to the funk on that one. The occasional deeper cuts were played, with “When Will You be Mine” being a particular highlight. The Average White Band have enjoyed success with some cover versions of songs that they really made their own. Particularly soul standard “Walk On By” and a version of “Work To Do” that in my opinion tops the original by the Isley Brothers. Both of these tunes were given full and funky workouts tonight along with a new take on another Isley Brothers classic “Harvest For The World”. This was a truly exceptional performance from a band that remain at the top of their game. I would also like to thank my gig buddy Audrey for making this such a fun night.