From Jacksonville, Florida, Blackfoot gave the Southern Rock scene a serious kick up the butt with a trio of hard-hitting albums between 1979 and '81 with the classics 'Strikes', 'Tomcattin'' and 'Marauder'. Their infectious brand of rattlesnake rock'n'roll captured the imagination of many rock fans. Led by the towering, loudmouthed Rickey Medlocke with his side-kick Charlie Hargrett on guitar, keeping rhythm were native Red Indians Greg T Walker and Jackson Spires.
Unfortunately, I never got to see Blackfoot in their prime. Like most bands, record company interference meant the band had to head in a more commercial direction, with dull results with former Uriah Heep Hammond grinder Ken Hensley joining for the album 'Siogo'. (For trivia fans, 'Siogo' was not an Indian word but, in fact, an anagram coined by the roadies, Suck It Or Get Out.)
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The band were close to implosion for 'Vertical Smiles', where I eventually caught my first sighting of Blackfoot on a cold- and rain-soaked day at Knebworth Festival '85, when they were on the bill supporting the reformed Deep Purple.
These days, you can't get Rickey Medlocke in a headlock to rejoin Blackfoot, as he is too busy coining in the nickels with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Drummer Jackson Spires sadly passed away in 2005, which means it's down to Greg T Walker and Charlie Hargrett to keep on flying the Southern Flag, or so we thought. Unbeknownst to most punters here tonight, Charlie Hargett left the band in June this year after having to "cease and desist". It sounds like someone has stood on sour grapes somehwere behind the scenes, so don't be too surprised by his return at some point. His place has been taken by Randy Pete, who does an amicable job. Taking the leading role is Skinny Molly's Mike Estes, who has replaced Bobby Darth who had to retire due to ill health.
For a Sunday night, the Islington Academy saw a healthy turnout who were treated to an excellent support band worth the price of admission alone. Virgil & The Accelerators were outstanding. These guys are a power blues trio who feature the teenagers Virgil McHahon and his brother Gabriel on drums. With touches of Cream, Rory Gallagher and Stevie Ray Vaughan in their cannon, the guitar work was mesmerizing with solos aplenty. Step aside Mr Bonamassa. Household names in the making who really upped the ante for Blackfoot.
Now, I wasn't expecting Blackfoot to be anything like their former selves, but I was looking foward to hearing some of their greatest tunes. 'Good Morning' was the alarm call I needed, strangely, followed by three covers that Blackfoot had previously recorded, including a stomping take on Free's 'Wishing Well'. Mike Estes may not have the charisma of Medlocke, but he did a good job stamping his own identity on the sound of Blackfoot.
The show really kicked in with 'Dry County', by which stage any doubters had been won over. 'Train Train' (a Dolly Parton favourite, no less) was in no danger of derailing and was good headbanging fun. The highlight of the evening was set ender 'Highway Song', which builds up in very much the same way as Skynyrd's 'Freebird'. Some great guitar duelling from Estes and Pete was pure air guitar nirvana.
Yee-haw! it was great to see Greg T Walker still dedicated to his art, and a good time was had by all.
I Got A Line On You
Let Turn On A Red Light
Rollin' & Tumblin'