Joe Brown performing his Ukulele Tour at The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering, on Saturday 18th October 2014

Reviewer:  Kevin Cooper

Joe Brown, aged 73, proved he ‘ain’t too old to rock and roll’ when he gave a rousing performance tonight of songs old and new at The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering. Fronting his excellent band, the veteran rocker transformed the theatre into a tap room of an East End pub as his army of loyal fans joined in to sing the songs they all knew so well.

Joe has seen it all; or so he mused at one point on stage before going into his trademark cheeky grin, something, that along with his obvious talent and love of music, has never wavered. It was somehow comforting that this man can stand on a stage, armed only at times with confidence and a ukulele, and perform songs that were as diverse as they were able to be.

It was also bolstering to see his usual group of travelling troubadours right alongside him; the superb Phil Capaldi on drums and vocals, Mick Nichols on electric bass and double bass, Richard Collins on banjo and guitar, and Joe’s very talented son, Pete on guitar, mandolin and ukulele and who took a lot of good natured ribbing from his dad during the night.

All of these artists are supremely gifted in their own right, but when added together, mixed with the healthy respect that any audience gives Joe, then they are formidable; a true reflection of the adage that class is permanent.

Joe opened up the evening with the song Big Rock Candy Mountain, which was first recorded by Harry McClintock, and is a song which is about a hobo’s idea of paradise. For Joe it was a perfect way to start a concert; full of depth and meaning. The set, which was split into two halves saw the five performers enjoying themselves immensely, with much banter going on between them, as the audience were also treated to some great one-liners.

There was some cracking music such as One Day Like This, That’s What Love Will Do, Born To Be Wild, The Who’s Pinball Wizard, and a brilliant rockabilly version of Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades.

From then on in, Joe and the band had the crowd in the palm of their hands all evening as they performed various tracks from Joe’s latest album, cunningly titled The Ukulele Album, such as ELO’s sublime Mr Blue Sky, Elvis Presley’s Stuck On You, and the 10cc smash I’m Not In Love. His own song, Tickle My Heart co-written with Nashville’s Roger Cook especially for the ukulele, set exactly the right tone.

There was also time for Joe’s own work and the crowd were delighted as he delivered great renditions of the songs, I’m Henry The Eighth, A Picture Of You, What A Crazy World We’re Living In and the witty You Ain’t Too Old To Rock And Roll.

Joe is an amiable performer with an entertaining line in stage patter. He knows just what his fans want and he serves it to them with panache; switching effortlessly from the banjo to mandolin, guitar and violin. Pete Brown’s sumptuous steel guitar conjured up images of Hawaii and there were a couple of delightful instrumentals as well, including a boisterous Hava Nagila.

Of course no Joe Brown concert is complete without a heartfelt tribute to his great friend, George Harrison, and this time the band played Any Road from the Beatles’ posthumous album, Brainwashed, before finishing the night with I’ll See You In My Dreams.

He evidently loves what he does and is absolutely loved by his audience.   He knows exactly how to please a crowd and he does it brilliantly. He is simply a true legend of British music and with the cheekiest smile to match. On tonight’s performance, it was clear that he was enjoying himself just too much to hang his ukulele up; and that has to be good news for his fans.