REVIEWS

The Original Blues Brothers Band
reviewed by Darren Weale. Photography © Sabrina Sully

Original Blues Brothers BandSteve 'The Colonel' Cropper in his element – on-stage with the Original Blues Brothers Band. Photo © Sabrina Sully.
Still Smokin: The Blues Brothers today

The first Blues Brothers movie, directed by John Landis, became a cult classic and Briefcase Full of Blues, the band's first album, sold 2.8 million copies. Over three decades and the movie Blues Brothers 2000 later, is the act that reignited the Blues and the careers of stars such as Eddie 'Knock On Wood' Floyd, Sam Moore, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, and Junior Wells finished? The answer is a definite 'no' and we've seen the evidence...

The Original Blues Brothers Band played London's Under The Bridge venue on 29 June. We spoke with 'Blue Lou' Marini and Steve 'The Colonel' Cropper before the performance. Steve Cropper told us, "I've always made time for the Blues Brothers band, we always have fun. It's twenty-five years of working with the band. Since we did a show for a birthday party, Lou and I looked at each other and said, 'This is too much fun, we've got to keep doing it.' The party was for Dan [Aykroyd]'s fortieth birthday. His wife Donna did a great job of sneaking us in while Dan was out with his father, he opened the door and there's a big whisper, 'Surprise!'"

Lou said of the band's life on tour, "We can play to audiences of thirty thousand and then to two hundred and fifty in a club in a small town. End of June, we're in the UK and Europe and the band is smoking. Lots of young musicians come up and say they got into music through our films." One such young musician was John Popper of Blues Traveler, who during the shoot in Canada of Blues Brothers 2000 mentioned that he was inspired to play harmonica and to become a musician by the Blues Brothers Band and especially 'Elwood!'

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Bobby 'Sweet Soul' Harden enjoys a drink with the crowd. Photo © Sabrina Sully.
Lou reflected, "The music is still turning goat's piss into gasoline, like Duck [Dunn] said. The band is still burning. From the downbeat at soundcheck, it's burning."

Burning the band certainly was at Under The Bridge. The line up also includes Steve 'The Catfish' Howard (trumpet), Lee 'Funkytime' Finklestein (drums) and Larry 'Trombonius Maximus' Farrell on trombone. Plus the band's Musical Director, Leon 'The Lion' Pendarvis (stepping into Paul Shaffer's shoes and himself Musical Director of TV show Saturday Night Live) on keyboards, 'Smokin' John' Tropea on guitar, and Eric 'The Red' Udel on bass. They were fronted by classy, energetic vocalists in Bobby 'Sweet Soul' Harden and Tommy 'Pipes' McDonnell. The band nailed classics such as Hey Bartender and Everybody Needs Somebody To Love. With The Colonel on guitar, the audience was treated to the man of Stax himself playing on songs he first recorded, such as Booker T and the MG's Green Onions and Sam and Dave's Soul Man, where he was once again exhorted to "Play it, Steve". The band paid tribute to the recently passed Bobby Bland, as Tommy put it, their "fallen Brother", and played Love Light in his memory. Their appearance was a joyful masterclass in music. As Lou told us, "Playing in the Original Blues Brothers Band is the worlds greatest part-time job."

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Steve Cropper and Smokin' John Tropea. Photo © Sabrina Sully.
Lou also took the time to pay tribute to two members of the band who have sadly passed, firstly, trumpeter Alan 'Mr Fabulous' Rubin, of whom he said, "He was lost for words just once at a concert in Illinois, he'd ask pinpoint questions of me, and he'd want for one of two responses he could predict. He said, did someone ask about me? I said a trumpeter did. I told him 'you're the best horn player I've ever played with'. It's the truth. He was brilliant." Speaking of bass player Donald 'Duck' Dunn, Lou reflected, "Duck's stuff came down from the stars and set the band on fire."

Other chances to catch The Blues Brothers include performances featuring James 'Zee Blues' Belushi and Dan 'Elwood Blues' Aykroyd. Dan recently appeared at London's Selfridges store promoting his own Crystal Head vodka. There are also two official shows, The Blues Brothers Approved in Europe featuring Brad 'Jake' Henshaw; and the official US Blues Brothers Revue.

The full story of the first Blues Brothers movie is featured in June's Classic Rock: The Blues magazine.

New official band website:
bluesbrothersofficialsite.com

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