For the first time this year, I headed off “unchaperoned” on the 5:25 train to Glasgow earlier this week. I’ll be honest, I do find it a bit daunting to be heading out to a gig on my own but I’d waited a long time for the opportunity to see these gentlemen play live.
I was destined for my favourite venue. Yes, the O2 ABC to see The Kentucky Headhunters play their first ever Scottish show.
As I sat gazing out of the train window, I tried to work out just how many years had passed since I first borrowed a copy of a Kentucky Headhunters LP from the local record library. (Let’s just say, it was a good few years ago before the launch of CDs.)
When I arrived at the O2 ABC there were a handful of fans already in line half an hour before the doors were due to open. While I waited in the queue, the band and the support band were all milling about the entrance chatting and taking photos. Already everything was very laid back.
Once inside I was pleasantly surprised when we were directed into the smaller room – the O2 ABC2. While naturally disappointed for the band that they hadn’t drawn in more ticket sales, I realised that those of us who were there were in for something a bit special.
Bad Touch, a five piece band for Norwich, opened proceedings in front of a small but enthusiastic audience. These young guys played a passionate forty five minute set. Their nine song set created the perfect atmosphere for the headline act. Highlights of their performance for me were Preacher, 99% and set closer Down. Definitely a band to keep a watchful eye on.
A few minutes later, the moment everyone in the room had been waiting for was upon us. The Kentucky Headhunters stepped out onto the tiny stage. (The O2 ABC2 is a very intimate room and the stage is somewhat on the small side to say the least!) No frills. No setlists at their feet. Hell, not even their own drum kit on the stage! This was a stripped back, straight from the heart kind of rock’n’roll show.
Big Boss Man opened the ninety minute set. Standing right next to the stage, you could see the twinkle in Doug Phelps’ eyes at the warmth of the welcome they had been given by their Scottish fans.
For those unfamiliar with the Kentucky Headhunters and their music, their founding members Richard and Fred Young are the father and uncle of one John Fred Young, drummer with Black Stone Cherry. Watching Fred Young play, it’s all too easy to see who inspired John Fred’s playing! Mr Young Sr appeared on stage stripped to the waist, wearing red sneakers, blue jeans with red braces and a Davy Crockett hat!. Brilliantly eccentric!!
As they played through some of their classic numbers like Dumas Walker, Wishin’ Well and It’s Chitlin’ Time, it was obvious that the Headhunters were having as much fun as the audience.
Richard Young offered a heartfelt apology for not having played live in Scotland before, explaining he’d been too “chickenshit” to fly. (Apparently John Fred Young and Chris Robertson from Black Stone Cherry press ganged him into this eight date UK tour.)
These gentlemen from Kentucky delivered a fabulous rendition of House Of The Rising Sun, followed by a reprise of Stairway To The Outhouse (sorry,… Stairway To Heaven. Not sure what Messrs Page and Plant would have had to say about it.) Brilliant!
One of my personal highlights of their set was Dumas Walker as it was one of the first Headhunters’ songs I ever heard back in the late 1980’s. Loved it.
Another memorable moment was Spirit In The Sky. I love this song! The Glasgow crowd sang and danced their hearts out along to that one! Being so close to the stage, the band were watching us as closely as we were watching them so perhaps I better apologise now for my bad dancing!
Fred Young’s drum solo was another highlight a short while later. Even on a borrowed kit, he killed it!
Towards the latter portion of the set, Richard Young told the audience a story about how the Headhunters came to work with bluesman Johnnie Johnson. (The Chuck Berry classic Johnnie B Goode is reportedly a tribute to Johnnie Johnson.) The Headhunters worked with him shortly before his death in 2005 and have recorded a CD of his music, Meet Me In Bluesland. To follow his tale, Richard then introduced the next song Walking With The Wolf from the record. Awesome blues song that the Glasgow crowd fell in love with instantly. Greg Martin’s guitar playing during this and it has to be said throughout the entire night was stunning.
All good things have to come to an end though. Before beginning another classic, Davy Crockett, Fred Young donned a “See You, Jimmy” bunnet. Nice touch, sir! He also swapped places with the drummer from Bad Touch part way through the song so that he could dance his way up to the mic and lend his voice to the song. Highly entertaining.
As the Headhunters rounded their set off with Hey Jude, Bad Touch came out to join in the party. If the audience could’ve, they’d have been up on stage too!
Fantastic end to an incredible show and also the end of their first UK tour. Here’s hoping it won’t be their only UK tour.
I might have waited over twenty five years to see these guys but it was worth the wait.
Thanks to Bad Touch for signing their set list for me
Thanks to The Kentucky Headhunters for the picks and for signing my CD.