IT is 35 years since Hamish Stuart left the Average White Band to do his own thing – play or write for the likes of Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones, Ringo Starr and Aretha Franklin.
While AWB – with Brent Carter on vocals – continues to perform with aplomb (recently starring at the Royal Festival Hall in London), Stuart has carved out a successful career for himself. This was very much in evidence at the wonderful 606 Club in London’s Chelsea this week when for two nights he played to sell-out audiences.
Steve Rubie, the club’s marvellous owner, knows he can always bank on Stuart to both entertain and keep the club’s tills ticking over nicely.
And perform he did in style. Backed by a sensational four-strong horn section plus regulars Jim Watson and Ross Stanley (keyboards), Adam Phillips (guitar), Steve Pearce (bass) and Ian Thomas (drums), he had the 606 club jiving and clamouring for more.
Thankfully, Stuart shows no sign of slowing up despite being in his late 60s – and his guitar and falsetto vocals are as strong as ever. The audience basked in a pot pourri of achingly beautiful soul, jazz and funk.
Glaswegian Stuart is also no stuck record as evidenced by a smattering of songs from the 360, an album he put together last year with his old AWB sparring partners Molly Duncan (saxophonist and part of the horn quartet) and Steve Ferrone.
Starting with a mercurial opening – Midnight Rush – where Phillips showed why he is one of the country’s leading guitarists (guesting for the likes of Tom Robinson), the horn section then joined the rest of the band on stage for a rousing version of the Isley Brothers’ Work To Do (covered by AWB in 1974).
Wordsworth, a tender 360 number, then followed with Jim Hunt excelling on saxophone. We were then swept back 41 years to Queen of My Soul, taken from AWB’s album Soul Searching. As Stuart reminded us: ‘1976 was a very good year.’ With Phillips and Pearce providing solid backing vocals, Queen of My Soul was met with great applause.
The first set was completed with 1940’s song Some Other Time taken from Broadway show On The Town, followed by a long homage to Muhammad Ali entitled How The Mighty Fall. A beautifully crafted song, enhanced by Thomas’s drums and Phillips’ guitar. In unison, the audience sang: ‘the whole wide world’. Not once but a dozen times, all in different pitches.
The second set was equally strong, starting with AWB hit Whatcha Gonna Do For Me (also a hit for Chaka Khan whom Stuart played and wrote for post AWB) and then moving on to the beautiful A Love Of Your Own (another AWB classic). Two 360 songs followed, Love & Learn and Cherry Blossom Time (a stand out track from the new album).
Person to Person (AWB, 1974) and Let’s Go Round Again (AWB, 1980) were then stylishly served up before Stuart brought the show to a monumental climax with AWB’s signature tune, the instrumental Pick Up the Pieces (1973).
What a night. What a performance.
Like a fine wine, Stuart improves with age. But by surrounding himself with such talented musicians as Phillips, Thomas and Pearce, he has created one of the best live sets currently doing the club rounds.
If you can, catch him because he will delight.