Johnny Echols @ The Love BandGlasswerk @ Grand Central Hall 29/6/19
There’s a huge amount of affection in the air at Grand Central. Tonight, Liverpool says farewell to a founder member of one of the city’s favourite bands. Possibly the city’s very favourite outsider band? That’s if you don’t ask someone at an Australian Pink Floyd concert.
Love guitarist Johnny Echols visited Liverpool two years ago as part of the From Liverpool With Love project. At that point a lot was made of his band’s seminal classic Forever Changes and its disproportionate effect on Liverpudlian music. His performance at Liverpool International Music Festival with Mersey luminaries was one to savour. There’s a similar atmosphere of unmissability about tonight’s show in Renshaw Street’s most opulent venue.
There are huge smiles all around as THE LOVE BAND launch into set opener A House Is Not A Motel from their best-known LP. It’s a real statement of intent and a sign that the evening is going to live up to sky-high expectations. The impossibly named Randy Squeezebox does a sterling job of embodying the late Arthur Lee at centre stage, while to his left Johnny Echols is clearly enjoying his return to Liverpool.
There are cameo appearances by trumpeter extraordinaire Martin Smith and Edgar Jones, who perhaps more than anyone has epitomised the influence of Forever Changes in Merseyside music. Whether it’s his guttural blues rock stylings, or the acid garage of The Stairs, there’s a definite Love connection to the majority of the Jones’ output. It’s telling when his vocal delivery of classics Stephanie Knows Who and Bummer In The Summer are punctuated by satisfactory Cheshire Cat smiles. Smith sports an Adios Senõr Pussycat tee, the album from Michael Head of erstwhile Arthur Lee backing band Shack, further hammering home Love’s Liverpool links.
The majority of tonight’s band is made up of members of LA group Baby Lemonade, a band who have done more than anyone to keep the Love heritage alive. From Arthur Lee backing band to tonight’s incarnation as The Love Band, Squeezebox along with Mike Randle, Dave Chapple and David Green have honed the legendary back catalogue for over 25 years.
Every track you’d want this celebration to cover is performed with joy and élan. LPs Da Capo and the eponymous 1966 debut are represented with the likes of Orange Skies and My Little Red Book, but the moment of the evening may belong to a Forever Changes track and trumpeter Smith: one minute 26 seconds into Alone Again Or comes the pause before that incendiary trumpet solo sucks up the attention of everyone in the room. Arms are raised, people attempt to sing along, Jonny Echols smiles. It’s just one of those.
The band finish with 7 And 7 Is as the guitarist thanks Liverpool for its continued support. The gratitude is reciprocated in spades. It may be the final time an original member of Love comes to the city, but the music of the band will be forever in Liverpool’s soul. Thank you, Johnny Echols.