Wilko Johnson's New Year's Eve Show, 100 Club, London
Tuesday 04 January 2011
Even Wilko Johnson's skull is stripped to brutal basics. Bushy grey eyebrows hood the dent in his bald eagle forehead; manic eyes stare down the crowd. In the 1970s, Johnson's band, Dr Feelgood, helped scorch a path for punk. Last year, a documentary by Julien Temple, Oil City Confidential, showed that the largely forgotten guitarist is still magnetically charismatic, though haunted by the death in 2004 of his childhood sweetheart and wife, Irene. Tonight, the success of the film seems to have resurrected not only Johnson's career, but also his spirit.
The 100 Club has also come back from the dead. Its planned closure, now averted, was capitalist cultural vandalism of the sort otherwise running unchecked through Soho, which was once a rock'n'roll hotbed.
Basic air conditioning cannot stop the sweat dripping from the ceiling as the 63-year-old Johnson plays the sort of primal racket that has always made this club jump. Dr Feelgood songs advance on an irresistible rhythm chopped from his guitar, with the Blockheads bassist Norman Watt-Roy in lockstep. But "Paradise" shows the poetry and vulnerability Johnson also drew from his Canvey Island home. His final cry of "Irene!" is a celebratory howl, echoing Marlon Brando's desperate "Ste-lla!"
The menacing persona which made Johnson the stage bodyguard of Dr Feelgood's late singer, Lee Brilleaux, feels less real than usual tonight, amidst gentle grins that suggest he is starting to recover from his loss. The musicians indulge themselves more than they once did, and are indulged by a crowd of every post-teen age. However, in a closing salvo that includes "Back in the Night", Johnson tells the plain story of a man waiting for his baby at the station with essential art. After he leaves, a couple in their sixties are still dancing like the Mods they were in their twenties. The magic that started then is yet to run out.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Greek debt crisis: Yanis Varoufakis's funniest (and most memorable) quotes
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Wireless 2015: Nicki Minaj 2 hours late to main stage due to 'travel issues'
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Contemporary art is a fraud, says top dealer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture