Ronnie Wood and his Wild Five performing his Mad Lad Tour at The Symphony Hall Birmingham on Monday 25th November 2019

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

When a Rolling Stone made a visit to Birmingham last night, a packed crowd knew that they would be treated to flashes of musical brilliance, and Ronnie Wood did not disappoint.

After making an entrance from the back of the auditorium and a brief walk through the audience he reached the stage to deliver a rocking version of Chuck Berry’s No Particular Place To Go. And with a set list designed to respect a legend that has influenced him since childhood, the majority of songs were from his latest album, Mad Lad, a tribute to the late Chuck Berry.

Backing him was the band Wild Five in which pianist Ben Waters figured large, along with Waters’ seventeen year old son, Tom and Antti Snellman on saxophone, bassist Dion Egtve, drummer Dexter Hercules and his two backing vocalists who really lifted the whole proceedings.

After a swift greeting, his fingers moved nimbly on his Fender Stratocaster for the likes of Roll Over Beethoven and Sweet Little Sixteen, before Little Queenie sounded as fresh and brilliant as it did in the 60s.

Embarking upon an enjoyable trial of Berry’s hits, some historical tracks as well as some lesser known pieces, it was an evening of toe tapping fun. Whilst Don’t Lie To Me saw the saxophone used at it’s very best, Waters’ intense piano playing in Blue Feeling actually elevated the instrumental to a higher level.

The powerhouse bluesy vocalist Imelda May is not only featured on the album, but she was introduced on the night to add her own brand of enthusiasm to Berry’s songs especially on the likes of Wee Wee Hours, which got the packed audience out of their seats and on their feet and allowed Wood to take a step back.

New song, the Wood penned Tribute To Chuck Berry kept a moderate pace and featured a fabulous guitar solo characteristic of Berry. Other tributes included Mad Lad, Memphis Tennessee, Run Rudolph Run and Rock And Roll Music, before supposed main set closer Bye Bye Johnny had the crowd on their feet in appreciation after a brilliant performance from Wood on his lap steel guitar.

Wood, May and his Wild Five did not leave the stage for an encore, but instead were joined by the very talented Jack Broadbent, who occupied the opening guest slot for the very upbeat Carol, before the evening was brought to a rousing raucous end with Berry’s Johnny B. Goode.

There is no doubt that Wood knows his way around a guitar but he is no charismatic front man. With vocals that were at times inaudible he was instantly forgiven, because after all it is not every day that you get to be in the presence of greatness. And that is exactly what Ronnie Wood is.