Albert Lee's 70th Birthday Concert, review

Cadogan Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

The guitarist’s guitarist, Albert Lee grew up in London but found his métier after moving to the US where he backed Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton and the Everly Brothers.

Their sterling catalogue, along with Buddy Holly’s, provided reference points throughout a thoroughly enjoyable celebration featuring friends and erstwhile collaborators including Bill Wyman and ‘national treasures’ Joe Brown and Marty Wilde.

“It’s like listening to my record collection” as host Bob Harris engagingly put it. Lee’s opener, a rollicking cover of Fats Domino’s ‘‘I’m Ready’’, proved a statement of intent with its ‘‘ready, willing and able to rock and roll night’’ chorus and the first of many dazzling, crisp and clean solos showcasing his hallmark, hybrid style combining finger-picking and the use of a flat pick.

At home in any genre, from skiffle to soul, with Gary US Bonds excelling on Otis Redding’s ‘‘I’ve Got Dreams To Remember’’, and the rock’n’roll revival of Shakin’ Stevens, Lee also relished a rare opportunity to play the epochal Hank Marvin lead lines of ‘‘Apache’’ and ‘‘Wonderful Land’’ with the rest of the Shadows.

But it was his plangent contribution to a sublime version of the 1967 evergreen ‘’A Whiter Shade Of Pale’’ sung by its creator, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker, that really sent shivers down the spine.

Ending with his signature song ‘‘Country Boy’’, Lee could hardly wait for his second concert of the weekend the next night. Filmed for a forthcoming documentary, this was both a guitar masterclass and a potted, living history of rock.