As far as rock ‘n’ roll legends go, Ronnie Wood is up there with the best of them.
Primarily known for his work as a multi-instrumentalist in The Rolling Stones, Wood also has been a member of various other groups including The Faces, The Birds, and the Jeff Beck Group. It’s hard to fathom someone as seasoned as him having influences – he is the influence, after all – but one of Wood’s childhood heroes and inspirations for the bulk of his music career is none other than Chuck Berry, one of the true blue pioneers of the rock ‘n’ roll movement. To pay homage to the late singer-songwriter, Wood devised a live album performing Berry’s songs at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne, Dorset and subsequently went on tour to deliver the set to a wider audience. So, on a chilly November night, the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in West London was treated to Ronnie Wood and his Wild Five’s Mad Lad: A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry.
Opening up the show was the enigmatic Jack Broadbent, a musician who’s talent knows no bounds. Broadbent has been hailed by the Montreux Jazz Festival as “the new master of the slide guitar”, and as soon as his set began he was setting out to prove this. Sat on the stage with his guitar in his lap, Broadbent had the audience watching each and every move he made with such curious intent. Slide guitar could quite honestly be considered a dying art in this day and age, but watching this set made it clear that not only was he reviving the skill, but he was also reinventing it.
Due to the nature of the show, his set was made up chiefly of covers that would appease the crowd and also compliment the headlining set from Wood. It wasn’t long before Broadbent was joined on stage by a special guest wielding a bass guitar: his own father. Micky Broadbent was prominent in the ’70s music scene and, as the younger Broadbent confirmed, was a huge influence on his son and the path he has taken. The two performing was a particular treat for the already quite packed out room, evident by the fervent cheering and clapping between each song. The dynamic was certainly interesting to watch and was an excellent opportunity to appreciate two generations of a family united by their love of music.
Ultimately, this was the perfect support set. It left the crowd buzzing with excitement over not only the thought of seeing Ronnie Wood that evening but over their discovery of a new favorite artist too.
Wood’s live band includes the breathtakingly talented Ben Waters on the keys, and it was he and the rest of the backing musicians that took the reigns for the beginning of the set. They encouraged the audience to go wild, as only then would the man of the hour supposedly make an appearance, and a handful of songs in did he appear indeed. In a leopard print shirt, skinny jeans and sneakers, he looked every bit the teenager he truly is at heart… though it must be said that the wrinkles did give him away in the end!
Chuck Berry produced a lot of hits during his time, and each and every one of them seemed to feature on this 23 song set. No performance was a carbon copy, however — Wood put his own spin on the tracks, and while his vocals fell flat in places the passion and pride were there to keep things running smoothly. At the end of the day, Ronnie Wood is 72 years old and decidedly not a lead singer, so for anyone to expect him to be singing beautifully would be a blind mistake.
Guest appearances from Irish singer-songwriter Imelda May (for ‘Wee Wee Hours’) and the internationally renowned Lulu (for ‘Run Run Rudolph’) made the set all the sweeter, as not only did it shake things up but it evidenced just how wide of a network that Wood has. The latter of the two had the crowd getting into the festive mood, and with Christmas so close now it was perfectly timed.
It came as no surprise that Wood’s pièce de résistance was arguably Berry’s most famous track, ‘Johnny B. Goode’, and it brought the evening to a striking close. His fans are the most dedicated of followers, and regardless of whether they had been following him for decades or were younger with classic tastes, they were one and the same with one of the world’s biggest rockstars at that moment as he himself is such an avid music fan to the point where he would pay such great homage to his influence.
Photos by Bonnie Britain. Check out Bonnie’s interview with supporting artist Jack Broadbent and more photos here.
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