This Danny and the Champions of the World article was written by Marcon Oxley, a Gigsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Photos by Ted Boots
2015 proved to be a good year for Danny and the Champions of the World, seeing the release of their latest album – the incredible ‘What Kind of Love’ – as well as them receive several nominations for the UK Americana Awards. It was no surprise then that Danny and the Champs were in fine spirits as they took to the stage at Newcastle’s The Cluny for one of the festive dates on their short winter run.
Eager to please this sizeable Newcastle crowd, the band fired off straight away with a high energy rockout, the likes of which one would expect from a big rock outro. Over this crescendoing wave, guitarist Paul Lush plays a super slick guitar solo in an incredible display of virtuosity – something that would crop up throughout the show in fact. Indeed, it would seem it isn’t at all a coincidence that amongst those aforementioned nominations is one for Lush’s guitar playing.
Although much could be said about Lush’s guitar work, he is by no means the only musician impressing here; the whole band were on fire. On the pedal steel, the stalwart Henry Senior Jnr maintained a sort of understated brilliance throughout showcasing the delights of this much-loved instrument. Also, organist and saxophonist Geoff truly delighted the audience with some solo displays, particular when Danny Wilson, (singer) invited him to showcase some “free jazz”.
The second song into their set and Danny and the Champs might have been considered guilty of overindulging with a seemingly never-ending jam. This is excused, however, simply due to the astonishing musicianship with solos from the guitar, pedal steel and sax.
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The follow-up number continues these displays with some impressive guitar and saxophone trade-offs (or duels in some cases). There’s also a more punchier bass to this one with a slightly more rocking sound to accompany the Americana and soul stylings. Bruce Spingsteen comes to mind with the band somewhat emulating the spirit of the E Street Band.
Other musical comparisons can be made with country rockers Wilco, an influence noted by singer Danny, as well as The Jayhawks, with ‘This is Not a Love Song’ sounding very much like the latter in places.
Slowing things down a little mid-set, Danny and Paul treat the audience to some acoustic numbers whilst the rest of the band sit it out. The change of setting opens it up for more audience interaction with the crowd jumping on Danny’s accent as he says “alright”, resulting in bombardments of “awight” in the style of Michael Barrymore whenever Danny says the word.
The second acoustic number offers up a hauntingly beautiful rendition of a track that has the audience transfixed, and Danny even breaks into Bruce Springsteen‘s ‘Thunder Road’ mid-song much to the delight of many there.
With the band back up, Danny, with a full compliment of Champs, proceeds to play two tracks from the new album in the form of ‘Words on the Wind’ and ‘Clear Water’ – the latter nominated for UK Song of the Year for the UK Americana Awards. At this point the audience are in fine fettle singing along and clapping as the band move through songs with seamless cool and infectious good energy. There are some fine saxophone displays here from “free jazz” Geoff who really shines.
The closing tune features the band introductions in which Henry Senior Jnr’s pedal steel is humourously referred to as “the ironing board of love”. This closer is really a culmination of all the great energy and good fun with the band rounding their set off in truly triumphant style.
The band then leave the stage before coming back for an encore (something they joked they wouldn’t do). The encore, featuring a nod to Chuck Wood‘s ‘Seven Days Too Long’, rounds things off perfectly for this truly impressive live act.
The band’s latest offering, ‘What Kind of Love’, is available now via Loose Music.