Booker T Jones makes a rare appearance on Tyneside as part of the Sage Gateshead’s Spring Jazz season.

With a career spanning in excess of 50 years, and a treasure trove of timeless classics under his belt it goes without saying that Booker T Jones is a living legend.

Of course, during the ’60s Booker T and the MGs were the house band for Stax Records, and during that time Jones and his counterparts worked with the likes of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Bill Withers and Albert King, to name but a few. Booker T and the MGs were recognised for their incredible contribution to music with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2007 Grammys.

Subsequently, this evening’s show is very much a retrospective look back on the veteran R&B artist’s illustrious career. Joined onstage by his three-piece backing band that includes son Ted Jones on lead guitar, for the next one hour and forty minutes the quartet walks the Gateshead faithful down memory lane.

Positioned from behind his Hammond B-3, Booker T leads the group through classics such as “Hang ‘Em High”, “Soul Dressing” and a beautiful interpretation of Gershwin’s “Summertime”. The latter of which being perfectly fitting on a day where the North East and the rest of the UK has witnessed record high February temperatures.

Back in the late 60’s Booker T co-wrote the seminal blues song “Born Under A Bad Sign” with US singer/songwriter William Bell. The track was later made a hit by legendary blues guitarist Albert King and has been covered by many groups including British rockers Cream. Early in the set, Jones delivers a crowd-pleasing rendition of the number, and it certainly hits the spot.

Mid-set Booker T shares some fascinating stories regarding his encounters with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Prince. Throughout this segment of the show, Booker T takes centre stage with his trusty guitar as collectively the band performs their own unique takes on the likes of “Hey Joe”, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and an astounding rendition of “Purple Rain”. The latter of which is performed entirely by the father and son duo of Booker T and Ted Jones.

The final segment of the show is packed full of Booker T and the MG’s anthems including the unmistakable “Green Onions”, the funky jazz-tinged “Melting Pot” and “Hip Hug-Her”. During the aforementioned 60’s composition, drummer Darian Gray gives the song a contemporary twist by rapping over the breakdown to great effect.

Back in 2011, Booker T collaborated with hip-hop band The Roots on the album The Road from Memphis. As the show reaches its conclusion Jones delivers one of the stand out tracks from the album in the shape of his take on Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything”.

Jones brings his main set to a close with a majestic airing of “Time Is Tight” which results in a standing ovation from the Sage Gateshead crowd. A two-song encore that features a Hammond infused rendition of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” and Sam and Dave’s soul ballad “Something Is Wrong With My Baby” brings the show full circle.

At the age of 74, Hammond B-3 master Booker T Jones still sounds incredible. The music of Booker T and the MG’s has truly stood the test of time, and the Gateshead crowd assembled tonight would most certainly agree.

Booker T Jones
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Event Date: 26-Feb-2019

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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