Live at New Roscoe on Wednesday, 29th December 2004
Any late December night, the WD40 aerosol may get a chance to prove its worth; and there it was on stage at the Roscoe doing its bit from time to time in getting the guitar of The Hamsters' lead player/vocalist Slim into condition for what he does with it. Which is rather a lot, when this trio's sound is so much the work of that one extremely capable performer, with rhythm from Otis's drums and Zsa-Zsa's bass sometimes almost in the role of traditional accompanist. (Names used here are the official noms-de-rodent of the three geezers from Essex.)
The Hamsters' two-date appearance at the Roscoe left their Hendrix repertoire well riffled through, given that Tuesday's show had been a Hendrix Night plus a bit of other content, and Wednesday was for other stuff - plus quite a bit of guess who. The malleable 'All Along the Watch Tower' was faithfully represented after a vividly enacted 'Star Spangled Banner' - forbidden territory of course to anyone who hasn't got the highest command of the material. Surprisingly 'And the Wind Cried Mary', another which lends itself to variations of treatment, wasn't very compelling in tonight's version, while 'Little Wing' opening the evening's second set was a high spot of the show, full-dimensioned trio work, with drumkit pulling its weight as a creative part of the sound.
The chasm of passing years was seen in more than the portfolio of one long-dead hero. A half-time interval was announced as a prostate break; a 30th birthday in the audience was granted a dedication, but not without a remark about the slightness of that age compared with that of the average Hamsters audience. The song that followed, 'Come to Poppa', was one of the evening's most memorable, and the only one suggesting a Floydian trip down memory lane in the guitar solo. With the appearance in the early stages of the old R&B standby 'Barefooting', Slim paused for a little talk to anyone too young to know that it's rhythm and blues, and that means fast exciting music, not slow aching vocals.
ZZ Top, the band's other tribute speciality, got several looks-in, and the crowd liked it. They were having a good time with a good band, and another way it showed was the easy acceptance, in shoulder-to-shoulder conditions, of people moving about during songs as well as between them. This last gig of the band's 18th year was a success; it brought much pleasure to many people, though without visible evidence of rapture. With three and a half thousand concerts behind them The Hamsters tirelessly spin the gig treadmill of blues-rock; with a Jimmy McCracken number they were closer to blues and perhaps just a little more of the sort could have made a difference, at least for those hard-to-please individuals who went home feeling impressed rather than moved.