I covered this show primarily because Albert is a true guitar legend who I saw live for the first time with Jools Holland at Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College in 2010 (above); and secondly because the special guest lineup was accordingly pretty impressive, with rock 'n' roll gentry including The Shadows and Shaky airing some long-overdue new material.
As I tweeted after, it’s actually quite poignant that this lot are pretty much the last of their kind, of a scene that'll soon
be consigned to history unless contemporary acts beyond the likes of Jake Bugg try to keep that 50s flame flickerin’...
Cadogan Hall, London, March 2014
Not many plaudits remain for veteran virtuoso Albert Lee, hailed “world’s greatest guitarist” by Eric Clapton and “master of his craft" by Joe Bonamassa in a montage of filmed birthday messages projected above the stage. Though Eric and Joe didn’t grace tonight’s guest lineup it left little to be desired in the way of rock ‘n’ roll legends, all of whom had at some point in their career been complemented by Lee’s trademark warp-speed picking.
That technique was decelerated early on though for mesmeric lead duties on Apache and Wonderful Land with the Hank-less Shadows, before speeding up again for buoyant runs with Joe Brown and Chas ‘n’ Dave. Other highlights were more soulful moments with Chris Farlowe and Marty & Kim Wilde, performing Otis Redding and Everleys covers respectively, before a more rocking turn from Shakin’ Stevens delivering a couple of tracks from his upcoming album.
Lowlights, if any, were arguably Bill Wyman’s statuesque contribution to the otherwise upbeat proceedings, and that the hall’s acoustics were a bit too boomy to diffuse the intricacies of Lee’s Telecaster soloing. And the birthday boy himself seemed to tire towards the end, this being the second of two nights’ celebrations. Between-song anecdotes came mainly from compere Mike Read.
By the time the late birthday cake arrived though the crowd couldn’t have been anything but sated by the three-hour musical masterclass, piloted by the silver-haired specialist still at the top of his game and with nothing left to prove.
See also: Record Collector interview with Shakin' Stevens