Traffic were, and still are, one of my favourite bands of the '60's and early '70's, so I was thrilled when I learned that original member Dave Mason was touring in this country with a show called "Traffic Jam", featuring the music of Traffic, as well as the best of his solo material.
Dave left Traffic when he was a mere 22 years old [he is now 70] and went to live in the United States. This current tour is, unbelievably, his first solo tour of the UK.
Dave was accompanied by his superb band of highly experienced musicians - powerhouse drummer Alvino Bennett; the versatile Tony Patler on keyboards, bass and vocals and the great Johnne Sambataro on guitar and vocals.
Tonight's show was the proverbial "game of two halves", with the first set consisting of Traffic's music and the second half featuring the best of Dave's solo work [principally from his brilliant first solo album "Alone Together"].
It was immediately clear from the opening lines of "40, 000 Headmen" that Dave was still on top of his game. His voice had lost none of its power and range and his guitar playing was still sublime.
It was marvellous to hear the classic Traffic songs such as "Pearly Queen", "Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys", "Dear Mr.Fantasy", "Medicated Goo" and "Rock and Roll Stew" all played live, with the amazingly soulful Tony Patler sharing lead vocals with Dave, which brought back memories of Dave's vocal partnership with Steve Winwood in Traffic.
The first half ended with a glorious version of "Feelin' Alright ?", which Dave dedicated to the late Joe Cocker, who was the first of many artists to cover the song. Tonight's performance included some great harmonica from guest player Clive Miller.
The second set consisted of highlights from Dave's solo career, beginning with the lovely "World In Changes" from "Alone Together". This was followed by a mellow acoustic rendition of Dave's big US hit "We Just Disagree", with great harmony vocals from Tony and Johnne.
Dave and his band really stretched out on an extended version of "Look At You, Look At Me", which featured a series of excellent guitar solos from Dave, which showed that he has lost none of his fire. Some wag shouted "play it again".
Dave then paid tribute to the man who inspired him to take up the guitar, Hank Marvin, with a remarkably faithful version of "Apache". In total contrast, in terms of guitar playing, Dave gave his Wah-Wah pedal an outing on "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave", from the "Welcome To The Canteen" album.
My favourite of Dave's solo songs is "Only You Know And I Know", which was a No.2 hit for Delaney and Bonnie. Dave recounted how he was introduced to them by Gram Parsons, no less.
It was wonderful to hear this song played live, at long last.
For an encore, Dave and band played a blistering version of "All Along The Watchtower", with Dave casually mentioning that he played acoustic guitar on Jimi Hendrix's recording of the song on "Electric Ladyland". Needless to say, Dave reeled off a slew of impeccable guitar solos.
And that was it, apart from a "meet and greet" session with this amazing artist who truly deserves his place in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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