Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wilko Johnson @ le Divan du Monde, Paris - February 5th, 2013

When an artist announces a farewell tour it's usually met with skepticism at best. The Who "retired" in 1982 and have embarked in hundreds of tours (and even a record) since. Ozzy had famously named his pseudo-retirement trek "No More Tours" in 1992 and he's still at it (and still a tit) twenty years later. KISS did the same around the turn of the century and Frank Sinatra, well Frank pretty much invented this scam didn't he?

But Wilko Johnson, formerly of Dr. Feelgood and Ian Dury & the Blockheads was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and, to put it bluntly, he is not long for this world. So this tour is most definitely his last: he will be dead this time next year.

But put your handkerchiefs away: this isn't a funeral. It's a celebration. A celebration of a life well-lived, sixty-something years at the service of rock and roll. And he's ending it on his terms. No pathos, no tragic discourses, no benefit shows... Just music. A lot of Dr. Feelgood classics, of course (Roxette, She Does It Right, All Through The City, The More I Give...) as well as some less famous Wilko solo tunes (Dr. Dupree...) and some choice covers.

It's hard edged Rn'B played with punk ferocity by Wilko and his trio, including monster bassist Norman Watt-Roy. A non stop party of killer guitar riffs and barb wire solos and most of all great, timeless tunes.

But despite the celebratory vibe of the evening it was hard to not shed a tear during his rendition of Chuck Berry's Bye Bye Johnny. Wilko Johnson's real name is John Wilkinson, and the symbolism of such a tune wasn't lost on anyone, especially when he indulged in the only allusion to his fate as he waved goodbye to the crowd as he sang the classic line: bye bye Johnny, bye bye Johnny... be good.


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