The house lights went down and Eric Bibb walked onto the stage, not to start his own set but to introduce the support act. This is not something that many headliners would do, but in this case, the support act was his daughter, Yana Bibb, and Mr Bibb looked every inch the proud dad when he made the introduction. As his daughter came on stage, Eric slipped in a side door and sat in the stalls to enjoy her set. And enjoy it he did; every time I snatched a look, he had a huge grin on his face.
A more cynical person might cry, “nepotism” but even the most negative of naysayers would have to swallow those words as soon as they hear Yana Bibb sing. She stepped on stage, composed herself and then sang the first song completely unaccompanied. If she had dropped the mic and walked off stage after that first song, I would still have given her a great review.
Although she is on the same bill as her dad, she is carving her own musical path. Rather than the gospel infused blues her father sings, she is exploring a smooth, soulful jazz direction. What she shares with Eric Bibb, is an ear for a good lyric and the ability to select songs from the past while still making them sound contemporary. She has the voice and the talent to pull off the most gut-wrenching of torch songs but the lightness of touch to perform more playful numbers. For me, one of the highlights of her set was an example of a more playful song: “Bessie’s Advice”. It details relationship advice given, in a dream, by Bessie Smith and opens with the lines:
“If the shoe doesn’t fit, honey don’t keep it on.
If you look for a king, why settle for a pawn.”
And closes with:
”If he’s mean don’t make a scene, just walk out that door,
Cause honey, you were born for a whole lot more.
That’s what Bessie told me, in my dream last night,
And I always take her advice.”
This song got a very warm reaction from the audience!
She was accompanied by John Rangel on keyboards and performed maybe half a dozen songs, before closing with another of her father’s composition, “For You”.
Eric joked that it wouldn’t be long before he was opening for her!
After a short interval, Eric Bibb walked on stage again… but this time, he was carrying an acoustic guitar. He appears to be at ease on stage: chatting with the audience between songs; filling in the background to what he was singing and making jokes (“Tuning is like aircraft maintenance,” he remarked as he worked away at his guitar, “…always worthwhile!”). I would describe his style as gentle, except that would not capture the passion and joy that comes through in the songs he sings.
The set, however, did not start well! He spoke into the microphone, he tapped the microphone, he strummed his guitar… problem… no amplification.
Unfortunately, the problem was not solved quickly. His suggestion, “I may have to make like a troubadour and come out among you.”, was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Glaswegian crowd. As it happened, he did not have to make like a troubadour because after a bit more banter, he announced (completely unplugged) that he would offer up a “guitar prayer”. He moved to the front of the stage and began to play “Needed Time” on his acoustic. The “prayer” seemed to work since, about halfway through the second verse, the sound system burst into life, and we were off. Round of applause, sigh of relief and, stepping up to the microphone, he started again.
Eric played the first song, “Pocket” on his own before being joined on “Silver Spoon” by Trevor Hutchinson (I think… ) on upright bass and Staffan Astner on electric guitar. The interplay between these talented musicians was a joy to hear. Nobody grandstanding but each musician working to bring out the best in the others. The next song, “Storybook Hero”, saw the sound expand again with the addition of André de Lang and Paris Renita on backing vocals. Having finally assembled all of his band on stage, Mr Bibb chose to sing the first verse of “Stewball” unaccompanied… and he sounded awesome. What a voice! Warm and engaging with a touch of roughness at the edges to stop it from being too sweet. His voice is perfectly suited for the humour in this Lead Belly classic. And Eric was not the only vocalist given a chance to shine. Paris took the lead on “Wayfaring Stranger” (which Eric said was based on an old Scottish Hymn) and Andre was particularly impressive on the more African influenced songs.
I have posted the full list of songs at setlist.fm. There is something old, something new, something borrowed and all of it blue. I was going to highlight a couple as my favourites but looking at the list of songs, they are all my favourites! If you really pushed me, I might highlight the hope filled gospel blues of “With My Maker I Am One”.
All too soon though, the concert drew to a close. Yana Bibb and John Rangel returned to the stage and the whole ensemble launched into “Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down”. An outstanding end to a brilliant concert. Thankfully, we did not have to wait too long after the bows before everyone returned to perform “Needed Time” (clearly a fan favourite) as the encore.
To finish on a personal note, I bought tickets to this concert as a birthday gift for my daughter. At the end of the gig, Eric and Yana were sitting at a table in the foyer, signing CDs. We joined the queue and waited our turn. When we reached the front, Eric asked who it was for? I asked if he could sign it to my daughter since it was her birthday. This caused great excitement. Eric, Yana, Andre and Paris burst into “Happy Birthday”… in four part harmony! Eric Bibb sang happy birthday to my daughter. What a brilliant memory. What a brilliant birthday present. As I said in a Tweet, “Eric Bibb – coolest dude in Glasgow.”
A great night of blues from a sublimely talented singer songwriter. Don’t miss an opportunity to catch him live.