The Boot, St Albans [Pub & Food Bar]
The boot has some great music sometimes and Life’s a gas was no disappointment.
The band worked so well together and with Abigail’s amazing voice they made a dull wet Sunday night into a very enjoyable evening.Jim Papworth, Sunday 26 January 2020
My first review but I felt compelled to do so.
This band are utterly amazing!
The musicians, vocals, showmanship and harmonica are second to none.
It really brought a whole community together in a small but great pub.
Everyone was dancing, talking and enjoying this band - from youngsters through to our more experienced elders.
Loved, loved it.
Thank you!Sunday 24 February 2019
Next Sunday, Steely Dan are playing the O2. Last Sunday their highly accomplished tribute band Stanley Dee played The Boot in St Albans, a somewhat smaller venue. Even had the recently sadly departed Walter Becker been able to be in London this weekend, I doubt that London concert goers will experience a more joyous evening than was to be had in this ancient Hertfordshire pub.
Naturally, a small venue has its drawbacks, and as the layout of The Boot dictated essentially a line-abreast formation of the 11-member band, with no raised stage, it was impossible to see and appreciate them all. Having become a firm fan last year, this is the ninth venue I've seen them play and from this point of view I'd say my least favourite. There seemed to be one or two issues with the sound too, and I felt that microphone problems detracted from Paul's saxophone solo on FM, and Jen's lead vocal on Only A Fool, which was a pity. There was some unwanted feedback at times, and even Cavan was having difficulty making himself heard at one point.
These glitches apart, the vocal harmonies came across well and the playing was superb. With a lot of great tunes to choose from, no two Stanley gigs are identical, although they concentrate on the seven 1970s Dan albums with one or two additions from the "comeback" two and Donald Fagen's "solo" releases. There are about eight songs that you can depend upon hearing, and all are crowd-pleasers. Amongst these, Kid Charlemagne and Black Friday closed out the first half of the gig on a high.
After a short interval, during which I was able to improve my vantage point slightly, the music resumed with Dan's only instrumental, a version of Duke Ellington's East St. Louis Toodle-Oo. The second half show-cased various band members: Steve as usual taking the vocal lead (as well as playing trumpet) for Josie, Derek with the stand-out sax solo on Doctor Wu, then the perfect segue from Everyone's Gone To The Movies into Do It Again, which Amelia made her own with a fabulous vocal performance somewhat reminiscent of Tina Turner! Sadly I could see almost nothing of Mark, Keith and Don, though I'm sure the latter will have been drumming with his habitual broad grin, very much capturing the infectious joy the band shows for their music, as of course does lead vocalist and cavorter-in-chief Cavan, who must burn even more calories during the course of the evening.
Steely Dan (Becker & Fagen) were famously perfectionists, using numerous session musicians and many, many takes to achieve the sound on their albums. That is why it astonishes me to be able to witness a lead guitarist who is able to conjure the perfect sound, to my ear note-for-note, live, on every song. Take a bow, Darren Spicer - superb! Your right hand during Bodhisattva appears to move at the speed of a humming-bird's wing. I bet you won't be able to see that at the O2.
The set closed with my personal favourite My Old School and the aforementioned Bodhisattva, and after a brief pause, the "encore", Reelin' In The Years. Stanley Dee, you've reeled me in again - looking forward to the next time already!Tuesday 24 October 2017
Thanks very much Keith.
There are very few bands around who can command the attention of a packed Sunday night pub. The Way Back are one of that rare breed.
All five players - drummer, bass player, two guitarists and singer/occasional keyboard man - are confident, yet relaxed, as they cut through a score of classic rock and pop hits from years gone by. The band name says it all: you won't find much here that's newer than 10 years old, with the majority of the songs having been hits in the 70s and 80s.
What I love about this band is that they have really listened to the originals and reconstructed each one with finesse. Don't forget that this is LIVE - there's no luxury of overdubs or hordes of special effects when you're playing on your feet (or on your drum stool!) with only your hands and voices (and feet!).
The sound is rich, balanced, almost silky smooth at times as the band rock their way through crunchy guitar riffs and toe-tapping drum and bass rhythms of the hits we loved from yesteryear. Of particular note were the Suhr guitar and valve amplifier used by Nigel - a gorgeously musical tone with great attack and sustain, for me reminiscent of the warm character of a Gibson PRS. The songs chosen are often complex in arrangement and are challenging to play; there's a lot of fingerwork in this set!
I particularly enjoyed "Rubber Bullets", the 10cc hit from 1973, which is, in my opinion, an overlooked classic. The Way Back capture the original energy of this fun and unusual song, with Eric Stewart's guitar solos copied to perfection by Keith, much to the crowd's amazement.
The bass guitar sound was excellent, a clear, musical, rhythmic energy that, along with the great sounding drums, gave the band's overall sound a strong cohesion, and "presence". The sound quality was way beyond what you normally get from a "pub band"; indeed, I feel that the Way Back are worthy of a much better description!
The two main vocalists, Howard and Keith (from the brilliant "Mouth on a Stick" duo), make this band shine. Each has a powerful and easy to listen to voice, and their vocal ranges are exceptional. They tackle Wings' classic hit "Jet" with gusto, adding another layer of shine to an already polished song.
The songs are all classics, and best remembered by folk in their 40s or 50s - but hold on... The pub was packed with a wide range of people, from 18 to 80, and all listening, because there was a lot of great playing going on that simply deserved our attention.
A very talented bunch of musicians playing some of the best hits of all time, in a pub that works hard to keep live music as an important part of our culture. Live music sure brought a lot of happiness to many people last night, courtesy of The Way Back, and The Boot, St Albans!
Mac MacLaren, Lemonrock EditorMonday 21 December 2015
We're so glad you enjoyed the gig Mac. It was a great crowd and that always helps us to rise to the occasion! Hope we see you at another gig soon ...
The Boot is a friendly beer and wine lovers pad oozing spadefuls of charm, great atmosphere, open fire and sexy lighting too. Guide books tell us the building dates back to Circa 1500, so it must've seen a few scrapes in its time! Rumour has it a few of the 'resident ghosts' are rock fans, so it would seem pretty fair to say their eager anticipations would most likely have been met by Engine Room's gig in their midst in early January.
As their name suggests, Engine Room really get to the heart of the human experience by being grounded in what must surely be one of life's basics... Rocking! However, don't be fooled -these guys can tinker on the soft pedal too so that they end up dishing out an eclectic mix from AC/DC tracks, "Back in Black" and "Highway to Hell" (which had the audience clamouring for more) to Kings of Leon, Blondie, the iconic "Purple Rain" by Prince and the quiet version of Thin Lizzy with "Dancing in the Moonlight".
Although it was perhaps not the best of nights for a packed out gig, being the first weekend after the long Christmas break, there was still something for everyone to enjoy. Using quality sound gear, Gary's strong driving bass, Rob's lingering lead and Johnny B's rock-steady drumming (oh, that quick left foot) hit the spot, whipping the audience into full dance mode. The band's version of Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" even had the ghosts in raptures and ... 'tis said they're still dancing!!
rich osborneFriday 24 January 2014
Hey Richard, many thanks for your really interesting review. So well written! Again, thanks so much and see you again soon