Without his 70s output being plundered for samples by the more discerning hip hop crews of the late 80s/early 90s, a whole slew of iconic tracks, built on the vibes master’s hooks, would never have been made. Long adored by the jazz and rare groove scenes, Roy Ayers’ songs have been filling dance floors for decades.
Now, after a six year gap, the jazz funk legend returned to town for this exclusive UK performance. An older crowd of soul fans were warmed up for this sold out show by Mick Fuller’s DJ set of killer rare groove and funky favourites.
A pre-gig cause for concern was the absence of Ayers’ trademark electronic vibraphone and so it was that he’d left his mallets at home and was instead using an authentic-sounding keyboard sampler. This minor niggle was forgotten instantly as Ayers and his four-piece band showed they meant business with a string of big hitters that began with a bouncy ‘Can’t You See Me’ and segued seamlessly through ‘Running Away’ and ‘Evolution’.
‘Love Will Bring Us Back Together’ followed and saw the rhythm section of bassist Donald Nicks and funky drummer Larry Peoples locked in to a fluid backing aided by Mark Adams’ amazing keyboard skills to boost the slightly wobbly finger work from the leader. Thankfully this was the only sign of age or rustiness and his scatty, chatty voice proved that he can still deliver at the age of 73.
No favourites were held in reserve and ‘Everybody Love The Sunshine’ saw the crowd joining in with backing singer John Pressley on the much-loved lyrics and the transposed “we live in Brighton baby” got a big cheer for the “we shop at Tesco’s baby” line.
By the time the intro to ‘Wanna Do’ started they were already well past the curfew but the irascible funkateer played on to complete a stupendous 100 minute set that would have tested the stamina of artists fifty years his junior.
Concorde 2, Thurs 21st August 2014
Words and photos by Steve Clements