It’s about time that Nine Below Zero are recognised as the great British institution that they are after flying the flag for Rhythm & Blues for some 37 years. Looking at the extensive dates on the tour list on their website, you will see that they are one of the hardest working bands around, and have been throughout their time together.
There are no pretentions either; on arriving at The Robin 2 for the gig, I found main man, Dennis Greaves, behind the CD stand and talking blues philosophy to an interested fan. After all these years, the passion for R’n’B still burns as brightly as it ever did.
Hitting the stage to a hugely enthusiastic crowd, Nine Below Zero launched into a number of songs they recorded back in 1980 for the debut long player, ‘Live at the Marquee’ (which has recently been reissued). All the favourites were there, ‘Homework’, ‘I Can’t Help Myself’, ‘Can I Get A Witness’ etc.
Aside from Dennis Greaves, the band features original member, Mark Feltham, on harmonica and Brian Bethell, who played on the ‘Third Degree’ album and, along with Dennis, formed The Truth (another great, great, band whose original line-up recently got together for a handful of shows). Brendan completes the line-up on the drum stool.
A few numbers were then played from the ‘Don’t Point Your Finger’ LP from 1981, including the title track and ‘Rockin’ Robin’, followed by some tunes from more recent albums such as ‘Off The Hook’. Dennis paid tribute to Wilko Johnson, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, much to the delight and appreciation of this Blues audience.
Back onto ‘Live at the Marquee’ and we got ‘Hootchie Cootchie Coo’ and the smouldering ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ featuring Mr. Greaves excellent Blues guitar playing. There was a huge cheer for ‘Ridin’ On The L&N’ which was preceded by Mark’s fantastic train locomotive harmonica intro. Last song of the night was the popular ‘Pack Fair & Square’.
There was a long and loud handclap and cheers for more before NBZ came back to give us what we really wanted – ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’, a great track and remembered by many for the bands performance of this on the very first episode of ‘The Young Ones’. The night ended with a storming version of ‘Wooly Bully’ that concluded some one and three quarter hours on stage. Awesome!
A great band with yet another great performance and a timely reminder of just how popular Rhythm & Blues still is (also recently demonstrated by 16 year olds, The Strypes, recently signing a 5-album deal with Mercury worldwide). Let’s hope Dennis and the boys continue their Blues crusade for many years to come.