The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Geno! Geno! Geno!

Over this past Bank Holiday weekend the City of Nottingham held it’s brand-spanking new free music festival entitled, ‘City Pulse’. Over the three days duration, a wide variety of acts featured on a stage in the city’s Old Market Square and at various other outdoor venues around Nottingham.

I’m personally always keen to support these types of initiatives and similarly happy to attend a little live music anywhere. A couple of years ago I was sad to witness the demise of a not dissimilar music festival on the banks of the River Trent at nearby Newark and so looked forward to City Pulse’s first outing.

There were a few interesting names on the bill for the three days but one stood out head and shoulders for me above all others – that of Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band. I’ve been a long-time follower of the soulster from Indiana USA but by some miracle have been thwarted time after time over the years in attempting to see him live, regular and dedicated live performer that he has always been. Not this time though I determined.

“That man took the stage his towel was swinging high” (c K. Rowland)

Never before would the famous line by Dexy’s Midnight Runners front man, Kevin Rowland have been so apt. It was a terrible afternoon weather wise in The Lace City and the prospects looked bleak when I walked by the stage but a few minutes before the scheduled start to see a tiny, meagre ‘crowd’ standing in front of the stage. I actually wondered if the gig had been cancelled. I popped into my ‘headquarters’ (The Bell Inn in Market Square) for a quick pint, emerging at the scheduled start time of 3.20pm to see the musicians still setting up.

Can I just say it was worth the wait and putting up with the weather? Geno and the band gave a superb performance. I thought at the time maybe that there would be many performers who would be pretty phased with such a wet and hopeless situation, not Geno though. The band played a wide variety of stuff including lots of funk, soul, R & B and even a touch of blues. Geno was on good form and connected with the crowd well. He always comes over as such a great and sunny personality, a very uplifting guy I’d say.

The tiny and rain-sodden crowd grew and grew into a respectable sized one over the duration of the set in spite of the heavy downpour, Geno pulling the leg of the fans and involving them in the proceedings like the great trooper and performer he still is.

As always Geno had gathered a tight band around him. The trademark horns (two saxophones) moving in unison with the music and looking to be having a great time strutting their stuff. This kind of music is just such fun isn’t it? A bluesy lead guitar and very together rhythm section who knew exactly what their jobs were – providing a backdrop for the showman out front, completed the band.

Geno was…well just Geno. This man knows how to interact with an audience and give them a good time – he’s been doing just that for decades after all. There is surely nothing not to like about Geno Washington, he sings it like he lives it, he loves life and what he does. It’s all so apparent. The man is a complete joy and it’s difficult not to find that totally infectious.

Geno tends to repeat a few key phrases during his act. In some ways he sounds stuck in a different era but hey, what an era! Occasionally it’s a little difficult taking on board that he was a friendly contemporary of so many greats in the music business. When he gags about the likes of Arthur Conley of Sweet Soul Music fame, it takes a moment to remember that the man on stage was doing it all with those icons at the time.

Back in time – Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band in full flow during another explosive performance in the ‘sixties.

Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band were all over all too quickly. The constraints of the scheduling meant no time for an encore which was a disappointment because after ringing the changes through the set the band were really beginning to crank things up at the end and catch fire – just like on those old albums like “Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky-Butt…Live” which still give regular feelgood service in my home.

Time for the ex-American serviceman and soul legend to exit stage right then. A cheery goodbye until the next time, Geno. You’ve still got ‘it’ man – whatever ‘it’ is. I salute you.

NB: (Many thanks to ‘Zab’ for the images of Geno in Nottingham)

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May 28, 2008 - Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , , ,

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