Lucky Peterson, Ronnie Scott's, London
Wednesday 12 January 2011
Lucky Peterson sits unnoticed at the bar, fedora pulled low and dark coat draped on his shoulders. He must have gotten his name when, aged five, the legendary bluesman Willie Dixon saw him performing at his father's upstate New York roadhouse and produced his first record. He was already a stage veteran of two years. The skinny adult blues prodigy of the 1980s is a big man now, and vanished for a while with bad luck. Still only 45, he has older times in him. He devours Ronnie Scott's tonight.
He begins with jagged plucks of a glistening electric guitar, sustaining unfussy, warm riffs. Then he bends delta notes on an amplified acoustic, opening his wide, hungry mouth to sing "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" in his deep, gravelly voice. His fast left hand flutters up the guitar's neck then switches to piano, then the organ he was taught by Jimmy Smith. He joshes along his band – stiffer people, but good players – and with the flashing smile of a smart fool, drags the crowd to life.
"I've been saved by a woman!" Peterson hollers, waving his hand at the ceiling like a holy roller sighting heaven. Minutes later, as he prowls the back of the bar singing "Take Me to the River", casually unplugged, that woman, his wife Tamara, stands in a slinky chanteuse's dress and takes the stage. She is a plainer talent, a Tina Turner-style belter, and his funny, sly intensity drops as he sits back. But he starts the second set with a medley of blues classics plucked from the air and dedicated to his father, dead two weeks, and you realise that all his humanity is laid out to see. His wife's presence adds their playful real relationship. He dares to play the joker, warbling "Feelings" when she's trying to emote. This virtuoso showman is made happy by the blues.
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