Bo Diddley

Vamp

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Oddly, while effusively acknowledging Bo Diddley's enduring influence on both the R&B and rock scenes, the sleeve notes to this set are less than complimentary when talking about the artist's recording career, at least as far as nearly the last four decades go. But perhaps that's the unstated point -- Diddley may disappoint on disc, but on-stage he'll never let you down. If so, Vamp proves the point, as the album revisits his European tour of September 1984. Backed by a tight band comprised of guitarist Eric Bell, bassist Keith Tillman, drummer Stretch, saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, and keyboardist Dave "Munch" Moore, the mighty Diddley runs through a devastating set of classics, kicking off (of course) with "Bo Diddley" itself. Diddley and company chug through a down-and-dirty version of "Everleen," chuckle through a rousing "Can't Judge a Book," and steam over "Roadrunner," and by the time the band launches into the simmering "I'm a Man" the crowd is screaming its approval. "Man" was obviously the fulcrum of the set, and Diddley spins it out into a ten-plus-minute epic, giving all power to the riff, then reeling it back in to let Heckstall-Smith take the lead, before the band joins back in to take it out in powerhouse style. After that, "Mona" should, by rights, just fade away in comparison, but Diddley and band offer it up with such exhilaration and obvious delight that one falls in love with this vivacious lady all over again. Diddley was obviously in top form during these shows, the crowds as enthusiastic as he, and the result is a splendid reminder of just why this guitar slinger is not just an American legend, but still a popular live performer to this day. The only caveat is that, with the set clocking in at a mere 48 minutes, you'll be left shouting futilely for more.

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