Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson


“Man, there’s nothing like being told you’re dying to make you feel alive”. Wilko Johnson did mean those words in a recent interview, and we have some irrefutable evidence of this tonight.

The gig of his Still Kickin’ tour is short but pretty intense (it barely takes an hour and 15 minutes), like life itself.

67-year-old Wilko Johnson seems more alive and kickin’ than ever. No one would say that the man on the stage, moving furiously and playing fast, has recently undergone the nightmare of a pancreatic cancer. In Julian Temple’s new documentary The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson, he tells this painful as well as meaningful episode of his life. And also talks about the great feeling of being alive. And kicking.

Histrionic and powerful as usual –not to mention its characteristic Tommy gun guitar and duck-walking dance-, he gives Manchester’s Ritz a flawless lesson of vital rock n’ roll, the kind of rock that is capable of beating even a cancer.

Accompanied by drummer Dylan Howe and bassist Norman Watt-Roy –who I must admit that vaguely reminds me of Breaking Bad character Don Hector “Tio” Salamanca, out of control, ex-Dr. Feelgood Wilko Johnson delights the crowd with epic smash hits such as Going Back Home, Back In The Night, She Does It Right or Roxette.

After an electrifying warm-up including Dr. Feelgood era’s classics Sneakin’ Suspicious, Paradise and the above mentioned Going Back Home, Wilko’s mastery and charisma on the stage quickly gets the audience eating out of his hand (and of course, of his Tommy gun guitar). In the second half hour of the gig, he lets the instrumental part take centre stage.

By the time Roxette’s catchy riff sounds, the crowd (I would say that the average age was between 50 and 60 years old) goes crazy. Back to the future of the golden 70’s, I guess. The floor starts to tremble. A nice shake about 7.0 magnitude in Rock n Roll’s Scale.

From the fresh starting All Through The City to the second final encore Route 66, Wilko Johnson Band is in an enviable good shape.

At the end of this lively evening, during his astonishing performance of Bye Bye Johnny, a graceful and grateful Wilko even shows off a bit playing his old guitar behind his back.

Just like a new born child.

Wilko definitely keeps music alive… and so does music for him, certainly.

Encore corner:

Special mention to Wilko Johnson’s support band on this tour, Eight Rounds Rapid, whose guitarist Simon is Wilko’s son. They enter the stage in black suits, and they look like yuppies performing some kind of weird and hip after work. Singer David Alexander looks like Edward Norton in his Fight Club film’s role. He sings loud and fast but at the same time seems disturbingly restrained, except from a couple of Ian-Curtis-like spasms. Is he turning into Tyler Durden yet?

Every now and then, he exits the stage and stares at the fight between the guitarist and the bassist. Just like Tyler Durden, in the dark, but his tie still is in its perfect place. After a while, he reappears with the same discretion with which he disappeared… or may be is it pre-meditated indifference?

Anyway, this yuppie-like band could perfectly set a proper soundtrack for Generation X’s nonsense life. A good sample of good punk-rock, after all.

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Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!