Larry Miller once played guitar in my front room. Around 20 years ago, he answered an ad in Melody Maker (for anybody under the age of 30, an ‘ad in Melody Maker’ was something that existed before the Internet) for a guitar I was selling and had come round to check it out. I’d never heard of him, but when he picked up my instrument, it was soon apparent that I was in the presence of guitar greatness. In the end, he never bought it. He advised me that to save me from myself he couldn’t buy it from me – that I’d be mad to sell it at the price I’d advertised it for as it was worth a lot more. Twenty years later, that guitar is now one of my most prized possessions – thank you Larry.
I tell that story because it perfectly summarised the man that was Larry Miller – one of the ‘nice’ people on the blues/rock circuit. I went to see him a few times after that and always enjoyed the experience – but then my wife and I embarked on a young family and this curtailed much of our live music activities. Fast-forward around 15 years (where did that time go?), and I now get the chance to see Larry play again. I don’t mind admitting I’m really looking forward to it.
There’s no photo pit at The Borderline so as a photographer, you have to get there early. As I arrive, there’s a bit of malcontent outside the venue. It transpired that tonight’s support, Babajack have had to cancel due to illness – and it’s their only planned date in the capital this year. Disappointing stuff, but I console myself with a beer and wonder how the evening is going to pan out. At 8pm, Larry appeared. He was sporting a smile so wide you’d need a civil engineering degree to work out how to span it. He sincerely apologised for the absence of the support (you’d be forgiven for thinking he were personally responsible), and explained that he was gong to play two sets to compensate. It’s safe to say that Larry still passes the ‘nice person’ test with flying colours.
And then he let rip into it. Within a few seconds Miller was duck-walking across the Borderline stage, still radiating that smile, and obviously having the time of his life. I don’t know what he puts on his cornflakes in the morning, but he didn’t look a day older than I remember him from all those years ago and over the course of the performance, Larry displayed levels of energy that would make a Royal Marine blush. Pretty amazing stuff.
Miller is currently on tour promoting his latest record Soldier Of The Line, although much like the other venerable (though now sadly retired) blues-rock institution The Hamsters, in reality he’s pretty much touring continuously. The accent is most definitely on everyone having a good time – there is great interplay with the Borderline audience, as there is with Miller’s left-hand man, Derek White on bass. Whilst Larry Miller is undoubtedly a theatrical powerhouse, he’s also keen to ensure that we’re there for the music too. He opened his second set with the title track from Soldier Of The Line, a poignant piece played on acoustic guitar. For this he requested quiet, and thankfully, he got it.
This was however just a brief lull from the otherwise consistently crunching sound of Les Paul through Marshall. Miller plays at the heavier end of the blues-rock spectrum, the most obvious comparison being made to the late and great Gary Moore. And like Moore, Larry Miller is a consummate guitar player who really does make the instrument sing.
After around 90 minutes of ear-rattling brilliance, Miller closed out the show with his take on Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile – the second time I’ve heard that in this venue in as many weeks. It really was a great night of blues guitar; played with passion, played with style and Larry Miller and his band exited stage-right with applause from an appreciative audience ringing in their ears. I’m left to resolve that I’m definitely going to watch Larry Miller play again. I just won’t leave it so long next time.
Photography & Review by Simon Reed. Larry Miller at The Borderline on 08/05/15.
Simon has his own great site right here: www.musicalpictures.co.uk
The whole set here: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/Larry-Miller/G00006F0VwCaBuKU