As the Blockheads took to the stage there was clearly something missing, Norman Watt-Roy was absent on bass. It later transpired he was off playing elsewhere with long time friend (and collaborator on the Blockheads “Laughter” album) Wilko Johnson, which given the Dr Feelgood guitarist had announced a farewell tour earlier in the year due to being diagnosed with terminal cancer, certainly puts any initial disappointment into perspective.
So although it’s great news that Johnson was able to add a couple more gigs to the end of his final tour, it was of course a loss to the almost sold out Wedgewood Rooms that Watt-Roy understandably decided to join him. This isn’t anything against his replacement though, as he held the bass-lines well and for any other band it could have easily gone unnoticed, but Norman Watt-Roy has always been as much a part of the Blockheads as the late great Ian Dury and as such there was something that didn’t quite feel right about the evening.
This however does also show the Blockheads have developed into more than just Ian Dury’s old backing band, now on the verge of releasing their new album with Derek Hussey on vocals tracks such as “Express Yourself“ along with “Roll Over” from the previous album are most definitely in the same vein as those made with Ian Dury himself. If anyone was going to successfully replace Dury, then Hussey was always going to be the right choice – the singer had been Ian Dury’s minder and already spent many a night on the road with the band, his vocal delivery doing the Blockheads proud since taking his place behind the microphone stand.
Initially the introduction tonight to some newer material, along with Watt-Roys absence, meant it wasn’t quite as impressive as seeing the Blockheads on the same stage this time last year (incidentally a review of which can be found elsewhere on this website) and although there was a touching moment when audience members who had helped finance the new record were presented with their copies, the gig hadn’t quite got going.
Needless to say then, it was the likes of “What a Waste” and the classic “Hit me With Your Rhythm Stick” that started to receive the biggest cheers of the night and the duel guitars of Chaz Jankel and John Turnball who had the biggest applause, both of whom have played a major role in the life and times of Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
The bands’ current drummer is a local lad so great to see a Pompey shirt behind the kit but with Davey Payne on saxophone also being replaced for the night the other big hit in “Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll” may have been one of the evenings highlights but at the same time it could have easily been a cover band playing rather than the Blockheads themselves.
It’s nothing against the band carrying on post-Dury as having had the pleasure of seeing Ian Dury before he passed away I do still love this band with Derek Hussey on front-man duties, it’s just this evening there were definitely a couple of other things missing, so much though I hope Wilko Johnson isn’t hanging up the guitar just yet lets keep our fingers crossed that the next time the Blockheads take to the Wedge there isn’t a clash in loyalties and Norman Watt-Roy is back on bass duties.