For the first gig of 2014, I headed off to see Larry Miller play at the Acorn Theater in Penzance, Cornwall. The locals are lucky to still have this venue as it was on the verge of closing recently. A selection of local people stepped in to save it and since then it has drawn acts from all over the country. After hearing rave reviews about Larry Miller I was glad to finally get the chance to see him play. The supporting act for the evening was local blues three piece, Blacktop Deluxe, who started the proceedings at 8pm.
Blacktop Deluxe has been around the local music scene in different guises for years now. Knowing that they were a blues-influenced band I was looking forward to hearing them play and, lets just say, I was impressed with what I heard. Soundwise, if you take some early ZZ Top before they got commercial, mix in some early Whitesnake with a little Dire Straits, add a more modern edge to it you’ll have an idea of their sound. Guitarist and vocalist, Keith Howe played lick after lick backed up by the extremely tight bass and drums of Tim Chapple and Alan Ibbotson. Although Howe is not the best of singers, his voice suits the music perfectly and, to be honest, I was mesmerised by his guitar playing. On the local music scene the band is very popular and it’s easy to see why.
A short break gave the crowd just enough time to refill their glasses before Larry Miller’s band took to the stage followed shortly afterwards by the man himself. I had come to see him after hearing several people talk about his amazing guitar skills and his performance. One person had told me that many, many years ago he had seen Miller play at a local nightclub where there were very few people but he still played as if he was at Albert Hall. I could tell by his entrance this evening was going to be very much the same. Miller has been likened to many top guitarists like the late Gary Moore and Joe Bonamassa, who also played at the Acorn Theater some years back before becoming a household name.
The rumors were true: Miller is amazing to listen to and to watch. He likes to include the crowd in his shows and, if it’s not standing right in front of them soloing, it’s by having a little laugh and joke with them. This banter was nearly as enjoyable as his playing because he’s very amusing. I guess it’s years of touring has helped him hone his stage skills. This guy just loves to play and this is clear to anyone lucky enough to watch one of his gigs. His sound was good, though his other band members took a back seat as Miller was the main attraction. One thing I seemed to miss out on was the keyboard player, which I didn’t hear until the last track of the night. It sounded good, but had been badly mixed or the volume was intentionally low so we could hear more guitar, in which case, why bother with a keyboard player? This didn’t detract from the show itself though. After much coaxing by Miller, the crowd eventually filled the gap at the front of the stage and continued to dance their socks off. The atmosphere inside the venue was something special. For the best part of two hours Miller and his band played flat out but there was a short break for the band members while Miller performed a couple of acoustic tracks. The second of these he played on an old resonator guitar; it was my favourite song of the night as the guitar stripped right back with Larry’s voice was a real treat for any blues fan.
Miller tours the UK on a regular basis so I am sure I will get to see him play live again in the near future. The venue was fantastic and massive credit should be given to those who helped to save it when it’s closure looked inevitable. Let’s hope the Penzance continues to grow to keep bringing these great artists.