Ian Siegal could well be the most accomplished blues musician you might possibly have never heard of. Born in Fareham in 1971, it’s been said that if Siegal had been performing and recording in the 1960s, his name would likely now resonate alongside such luminaries as Joe Cocker and Van Morrison. Given the hatful of prestigious awards and plaudits he has received, (too long to list fully, but ‘British Blues Awards Male Vocalist of the Year: 2011, 2012 and 2013’ and “One of the most innovative, gifted and engaging blues performers on the planet today” – MOJO Magazine aren’t bad to dine out on for starters), it doesn’t seem such a bold claim.
Siegal is a self-taught guitarist who learned how to work an audience in the late ‘80s busking on the streets of Berlin. From these inauspicious beginnings, he has moved onto bigger and better stages throughout the UK and mainland Europe and has toured with significant artists such as Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings and Big Bill Morganfield (son of Muddy Waters) amongst others. There are a string of acclaimed recordings in Siegel’s back catalogue; the most recent of which, One Night In Amsterdam was released on March 9. The latest album was recorded at The North Sea Jazz Club in his now adopted home city with a band of entirely new and entirely Dutch personnel (Dusty Ciggaar on guitar, Raphael Schwiddessen on drums and Danny Van’t Hoff on bass) and this is the band he brought to The Jazz Cafe to promote the new record.
The Jazz Cafe is a great place to see live music and never more so than when it is packed to the gunnels. By the time Siegal and his band descend the stairs that separate the dressing rooms and the balcony restaurant from the maelstrom on the floor below, the venue is ready to rock. The band fire up Writing on the Wall and get a suitably enthusiastic reaction. Siegal rattles through a series of searing numbers of his own and is not afraid to dip his brush into the palette of other artists too, on occasion mixing several covers into one. When he delivers Sam & Dave’s I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, he adds the line “…And you all thought this was Elvis Costello…”.
Allied to his consummate voice and musicianship, it’s this kind of irreverence with the audience that makes Siegal such an engaging performer. Even when he’s cross (castigating the drinkers at the front bar for talking too loud), he’s entertaining. When a (very large) glass of red wine is offered up from the audience, he says: “I told you, I don’t drink any more… but I don’t drink any less either”, and he proceeds to down it in one – to rapturous applause.
The band intuitively spark off each other and they share a synergy that only comes from being entirely at ease with whatever material comes their way. There’s no set list in evidence and the whole thing has an organic feel that leaves you wondering which stone in the Americana rockery will get turned over next. Siegal is eager to praise those around him, and particularly so guitarist Dusty Ciggaar, whom Ian describes as “pound for pound the finest guitarist on the planet”. That might be a slight stretch, but there is no denying that Dusty is damn good and he gets plenty of opportunities to shine.
Towards the end of the set, we get to see Ian play some incendiary slide of his own. Ciggaar is very happy to take a back seat when called upon and the rapport between them is a pleasure to behold.
We also get to see some special guests descend the staircase from the ribs and steak zone. Carmen Vandenburg and Rosie Bones¬ of the band Bones made what looked like an impromptu appearance to help deliver a raucous cover of the Beatles’ Helter Skelter.
The best part of two hours whizzes by and for the encore Niall and Caitlin Kelly (who formed the excellent support earlier in the evening) join Siegal to perform a stirring version of Dylan & The Band’s I Shall Be Released. It’s a great end to a great evening.
So there’s a chance you might not have heard Ian Siegal at work but do yourself a favour and try and catch his live show when he is next in the UK – you won’t regret it. Until then, get the new live album to tide you over. You won’t regret that either.
Live Review and Photography by Simon Reed. Simon has his own website right here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk
Ian Siegal Live at The Jazz Cafe on 28th March 2015.
See the whole image set here: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/Ian-Siegal/G00004ckqtSfMnAU