Thursday, May 12, 2022

Neal Black & the Healers @ Jazz Club Étoile, Paris - May 12th, 2022

Neal Black & his Healers played their first Paris gig since the pandemic at the Jazz Club Étoile with the help of special guests Janet Martin and Amar Sundy. French Bluesman Fred Chapellier was also announced but had to bow out on account of some unspecified medical reason.

The club formerly known as the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club is a somewhat hoity toity venue situated in the posh Paris Méridien hotel. For an artist who paid his dues playing seedy New York dive bars and rowdy Texas barrelhouses, this decidedly well-behaved audience with a median age averaging Medicare eligibility must have been a little disconcerting...

Nevertheless, Neal Black rocked everyone's 11 euros beers off with two typically energetic sets, where his virtuosity on the guitar was properly astounding: precise and fluid, his technique never got in the way of the groove or the song. The current incarnation of the Healers was in fine form also, with the rhythm section of Nate Gossens (drums) and Abder Benachour (bass) providing a solid backbone throughout, and keyboardist Mike Lattrell taking some raucous solos on nearly every number.

They played a combination of originals like Jail in San Antone, Handful of Rain and some choice covers like Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love and a haunting version of Robert Johnson's If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day. One of the highlights was a dizzying instrumental (the title escapes me) where Neal Black's tasteful yet kinetic playing was on full display, going through licks that towed the line between blues, jazz, country, and hard rock.

Virginian Blueswoman Janet Martin was invited to sing and play some tasty slide guitar during both sets, and Sahrawi guitarist Amar Sundy also came down to jam. The guitar interaction between Neal and Amar was worth the price of admission alone.

The night ended with a soulful rendition of Blind Faith's Can't Find My Way Home and a rocking, rollicking cover of Hank Williams' Move It On Over which had the audience throwing away their Grey Poupon and Champagne to stand on their feet and (attempt to) dance, at the risk of shattering their pelvises.

This was a great night of Blues, not the kind of Blues that brings you down or makes you want to weep in your Bourbon, but a Blues that lifts you up, a Blues that makes you want to dance, a Blues that heals.

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