There is no denying that Wilko Johnson is a bonfide British guitar hero. Not only has he created a musical legacy by laying the foundations for Punk music with his distinctive style, when faced with the bombshell of a terminal cancer diagnosis, Wilko stuck two fingers up at the Grim Reaper, picked up his guitar and went back on the road. In what is inevitably his last tour, Wilko has been playing at packed venues around the UK with fans and music lovers alike turning up to see the man who helped change modern music.
Wilko came to the fore in 70s band Dr Feelgood and stood out due to his energy, attack and uniquely choppy R&B infused guitar playing. After influencing a whole generation of musicians, Wilko has been receiving awards for his musical endeavours, winning the Classic Rock Magazine Innovator award and the Lifetime Contribution prize at the European Blues Awards. When Elton John was defined as a musical genius as the GQ awards back in September, he promptly gave his award to Wilko saying“You're the f****** genius here. He's too busy living life to think about f****** dying.”
Elton may well have a point. Seeing Wilko perform he plays with every bit as much fire and zeal. It is almost as if the music is helping him fight to stay alive. He is greeted with a huge welcome by the audience who are with him all the way as he struts about on stage with Canvey Island swagger and pretends to machine gun the crowd with his trademark Telecaster. He wastes no time on rambling song introductions, preferring to let the music do the talking. Dr Dupree, Sneaking Suspicion, Keep On Loving You, Roxette, Back In The Night and Chuck Berry's Bye Bye Johnny are all on the set list. Wilko is supported by the brilliant Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums, who between them make up a mean rhythm section.
Such is Wilko's reputation the audience is made up of a variety of age groups which shows his influence runs deep. Hats off to Alex O'Reilly and the team at Oceana in Watford for hosting an evening of fine music from Eddie and The Hotrods, Nine Below Zero and of course Wilko Johnson headlining. The first musical venture at the nightclub proved a huge success. Whilst not the first place you would think of hosting a live music event it actually worked very well. With a 80s themed bill scheduled for February, featuring The Christians, China Crisis and Ex Simple Minds, it looks as though Oceana could get a reputation for being one of Hertfordshire’s great music venues.
Wilko Johnson's swan song is both inspirational and uplifting. His recent plaudits are well deserved and it is pleasing that his musical importance has not passed unnoticed. With this brings a resurgence in his music that will go on to influence another new generation of musicians and long may it do so. He is indeed Some Kind of Hero.