Jersey Arts Centre, St. Helier, Isle of Jersey, UK
June 27, 2008
It was over two years ago that Bohren last performed at the Arts Centre and a great deal has happened to him since then, in particular, his home in New Orleans was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. It was wonderful to hear that like so many fellow residents he has overcome that tragedy with great courage and optimism, and it was a particular delight to see him perform with such tremendous energy and commitment.
This was a magical evening enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience who were spellbound from the very start. This was the first gig of a short UK tour, which also included a festival held at The Hawth theatre in Crawley. The two-hour acoustic concert was not only a show of tremendous music but Bohren showed that he is also a humorous storyteller.\There were titles from the likes of Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, and Son House, all backed with superlative guitar playing. There was some intricate picking on the classic tune “Maple Leaf Rag” performed on a gorgeous vintage jumbo Gibson guitar, and his slide guitar work, played on a borrowed vintage National steel guitar, was gutsy and commanding. It was his atmospheric lap steel guitar playing that really captured the attention of the highly appreciative audience. His version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah, Hallelujah” was one of the very fine moments where his lap steel guitar really came into its own and I, for one, would have been quite happy if the whole set had been played on it!
There was much to enjoy about his concert in which his anecdotes and stories added much to the enjoyment but it was Bohren’s very compelling vocals that made the greatest impression. It is his singing that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries and, since he was here last, it has become even more powerful and committed.
This was a very engaging and thoroughly enjoyable set where Bohren truly illustrated that he is not only a strident and distinctive blues performer but is equally at ease with other genres, all performed with tremendous commitment and energy. Bohren is a unique performer and if he comes your way you should certainly check him out.
– Bob Tilling, Blues in Britain