He came, he sang, he charmed all those that came to listen…the legend that is Webb Wilder played for us at Seven Arts in Leeds on Saturday night and will finish off his European jaunt in Sweden tonight (Tuesday) before returning to the USA. Nashville based Americana/rock & roll/country blues star Webb had an action packed trip, with ten concerts in Spain before his UK gigs in Newcastle, Sheffield, Kendal, Kinross & Leeds (clearly the North in particular has kept the Webb Wilder flame burning for 25 years since he last graced these shores). He also fitted in a recording with Bob Harris at BBC Radio 2 before leaving the UK – so listen out for that later in the year. Earlier in the week, Webb stopped by to film at Made In Leeds TV for their weekly listings show The Book-It List. Being such a warm and entertaining character, WW was a big hit with the Made in Leeds team, and they produced a fabulous item which you can watch on catch-up here.
It was a pleasure to host Webb for his Leeds concert. He’s a hugely talented and charismatic musician who’s never gained the mass recognition he surely deserves, but who has nevertheless made his living playing music for decades, has influenced many and entertained many more with his distinctive singing and playing, his showmanship and his fascinating anecdotes. Webb’s tales include stories about his family (his auntie Lillian was a leading light at Mississippi blues imprint Trumpet Records in the 50s), life on the road and the many, many blues, country and rock & roll musicians he’s met, played with or been influenced by.
Webb’s set at Leeds was a masterclass in performance, ranging freely across genres including blues, Americana, rock & roll and old time country. It’s always more difficult for one person to hold the attention of an audience, but WW managed it effortlessly with just an acoustic guitar and that inimitable, incredible voice. He sprinkled a few of his band “hits” from the 80s & 90s (Human Cannonball, Wild Honey, The Rest Will Take Care of Itself) through the two sets, alongside a good chunk of his most recent album Mississippi Moderne. He performed engaging solo versions of Rough & Tumble Guy, If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It and Yard Dog from that release, as well as a simply brilliant rendition of Conway Twitty’s Lonely Blue Boy.
While it was lovely to hear the old songs again, it was gems like this that were the standout moments for me – like the version of cowboy lament Streets of Laredo that he pulled out of his hat at the request of another longtime fan. The guy’s an enthusiast, and has such an evident love for the music (of all kinds), not to mention an encyclopaedic knowledge about the songs, the musicians and the songwriters. It’s those qualities, as well as his considerable talent, that particularly endear him to that core of superfans (I’m happy to count myself one!) who have been listening to Webb’s music all these years. Numerous people came up and thanked me for putting the gig on, and some faithful fans were pretty emotional about it. Those folk who hadn’t seen WW before were knocked out by his talent and charisma. A fabulous and memorable show (as was the concert I attended in Sheffield) – let’s hope the wait won’t be so long next time!