• Chris Farlie

Midwinterfest 2020 - Day 1: Alan West, Steve Black & Adam Sweet , Mick Harding with guest Thomm Jutz

A strange turn of events, necessitated the team that normally opens events moving to the graveyard shift with Alan West and Steve Black taking to the stage well past their bedtime with Adam Sweet in tow. The pressure was also somewhat on with the evening already yielding two exceptional performances but as things would turn out. our amiable hosts also had a formidable repertoire to fall back on and a trick or two up their respective sleeves.

Starting with "What Love Is" which saw Mick Harding leave his duties on sound to arrive on stage mid song to pick up on drums. With Alan & Steve on chairs and Adam perched on a stool they settled into their groove very quickly. This was the team playing very much to a home crowd so "Hillbilly Woodbines" was more like a football chant on the chorus, such were the number of additional vocals from the audience. Maybe it was the late hour, or the fact that the evening had until then been acoustic, or Mick's percussion or that #TEAMw21 were sitting right next to a speaker stack but this seemed to be a louder Midwinterfest than we are used to and it sounded great for it. Alan's excellent "All Things For a Reason" album was then further plundered for "Bobby's Idle Hour" this time with Steve taking the opening verse, and Adam adding some telling guitar parts. Normality resumed for the second verse with Alan, taking lead once again, this version seemingly the best realised version of the song we've seen in a while.

The late night hour made for a somewhat knockabout rawkus set, and the rather rattling version of "Drive" was introduced with a tale of the folks from the North of England not knowing what the A303 was or indeed Stonehenge!. A song that was always fun seemed to move up into fifth gear and picked up a little extra pace and oomph leaving Steve in a bit of a sweat! It was finally time for Adam Sweet to make his presence felt vocally and "Name Your Price" like the rest of the set benefitted from the additional percussion and the overall fuller sound, that then lead into an even better performance,

Mick and Alan then left the stage for a few songs leaving just Adam and Steve to play their party pieces, first off a delightful bluesy shuffle "Pride and Joy" - a Steve Ray Vaughan cover replete as you'd ecpect with some great guitar work. This was followed by their unique and hilarious version of David Bowie's "Jean Genie" with Steve's facial expressions an absolute picture as they run through snippets of various classic songs from "Smoke On the Water" to the er "Flintstones Theme"

The stage returned not only to a quartet but was increased to a quintet with the reappearance of Thomm Jutz on guitar to see out the night, starting with a run through Little Feat's "Willin'" which always sees a quite exceptional vocal from Alan, only this time it was also accompanied by a great Thomm solo. For a set that had started with a batch of songs from "All Things For A Reason" there was to be a return to it for their magnificent reworking version of "Country Roads", the haunting line "I should've been home yesterday" coming with real feelings of regret.

With Thomm having played guitar with Nanci Griffith it was only natural that they should then move on to "You're On Your Own", the song inspired after seeing her in Browns Diner., Alan was seemingly transported to another place while listening to another exquisite Thomm solo. - even exclaiming "beautiful", before the crowd followed up with a standing ovation. One final song to close out a quite enthralling evening of music came in the shape of Delbert McClintons "All Night Long" an uptempo rocker, this tied with Adam taking the solo on an electric guitar. With the time well past midnight the opening night was without doubt an unqualified success.

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