|PETER GREEN with Nigel Watson
The Robert Johnson Songbook
Live at Tramps, New York City
The summer doesn’t get much hotter in New York City than in the final two weeks of August. This summer seemed especially venerable to the searing heat with the Yankees setting the Bronx on fire. Conditions were therefore perfect for a sweaty night in a smoky ‘ol blues bar. And tonight, Tramps, on Manhattan’s lower West side was bustling with anticipated excitement for the name on the marquee read, “The Splinter Group featuring Peter Green.”
New York hadn’t seen Mr. Green in over twenty years and the buzz had blues guitarists (and Rolling Stone) coming out of the woodwork. Green, whose legend stems back to the late Sixties, first made waves as par-excellence with Eric Clapton. He replaced the Surrey native as a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and later built his own blues band naming it after his thunderous rhythm section, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Mac had a profound impact on the British Blues Boom plowing the field for much of Seventies Rock.
Green himself became a tragic casualty of his own fame. His talent was unmatched and so his mental wellbeing was trapped between Guitar God and Orthodox Jew. Green left Mac after three high profile years acquainting himself with certain extreme religious occults that left him empty and misunderstood. For years he struggled as an artist to express the music swirling in his head with varying degrees of success. None were able to match the rocket-ship celebrity his bandmates would have in the mid to late Seventies.
Relinquishing his hold on the music that had brought him stardom, Green lost himself in the meanderings of life. He occasionally surfaced with a handful of self-directed albums but was little recognized for the effort he put forth. After the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Nineties turned the tables upside down looking for guitar legends. Eventually rock celebrities and historians turned to Peter Green. In 1997, Green was invited to participate in Fleetwood Mac’s induction into the Rock and Roll hall of fame. That same night Santana, who had struck gold with Green’s Black Magic Woman, was also inducted and requested Green perform with them. It was the first time Green had ever played live on American T.V.
With his new found celebrity, Green formed Peter Green’s Splinter Group and featured Cozy Powell (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Malmsteen), Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Bow Wow, Gary Moore), blues aficionado Nigel Watson and Spike Edney. The revitalization encouraged Green’s next step to return to his roots and compile an album of Robert Johnson selections. The CD, aptly titled The Robert Johnson Songbook, was what brought Green to New York.
Dusting off the stage for Green was Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown. The trio smoldered under the ashes and by the end of their 45-minute set had set the house a-fire. Green’s band quickly mounted the stage as all eyes fixed on the grand frame approaching the microphone. In a muted voice, Green eased into his first number, which began a trail of vintage Fleetwood Mac. At times his voice seemed distant, yet his impending wail on the guitar brought it all back around again. Rattlesnake Shake, Green Manalishi and Black Magic Woman crept into the set with feverish resound.
Nigel Watson, largely responsible for Green’s comeback, was an active participant in Green’s touring band. Though the line up of the Splinter Group had changed from its first inception, the mood within was the same. The highly skilled backing band gave Green an adequate springboard to launch his rustic talent. Almost uncannily, the spirit of Robert Johnson sat beside Watson as he barreled through Me And The Devil and Dust My Broom with Green mouthing the hand harp. Sweet Home Chicago eclipsed the evening with its astonishing deep and soulful blues reverberating across the decades. Green had returned to link history; from Delta progenitor to modern interpreter.
Website: Peter Green