ALVIN LEE (1944 - 2013)

Tribute Concert for Alvin Lee - Review



Tribute to Alvin Lee Media Tributes Concert at L'Olympia, Paris Review











Sun Shining Down:

We made the trip to Raalte, Holland in May 2012 to see Alvin Lee live in concert, which is well documented in our photos and concert review. In fact, I asked a good friend of ours at the concert, when and where Alvin would be playing next. His reply was quick and honest, nowhere else in the near future. That was the second indication for a title for my review. The first notion came to me directly from Alvin’s performance. His singing was slightly weaker than usual, his guitar playing was looser than would be expected of Alvin, as he always is extremely professional in that area and top shelf in his performance. These little flaws on Alvin’s part, demanded a little closer attention on my part. I knew he was rounding the 70 year old mark, and I offered up ever bit of empathy and compassion in his defence. I was also more intent on listening to his playing, rather than leaning on the stage and watching for mistakes. He was missing notes here and there, he was coming up short on a note, and then bending the strings in order to compensate. He got away with it, but it kept happening. On one or two occasions he also muffed up the lyrics, nothing serious, but it did occur from time to time. No one, including me really made mention of it, because who really cares about such trivial things? After all, this was Alvin Lee standing right on stage entertaining us with his seasoned flair and style. He was out-right funny in places, he was totally relaxed throughout his set, and went from one song to the other with relative ease. He loved being here, there’s no doubt, and we were happy to have him there performing for us.

Following the show, Alvin signed autographs and shook hands with adoring fans. Evi was right there by his side, and enjoying herself just as much. Everything was peaceful, orderly and respectful. The fans leaving Alvin’s presence,  were all bright eyed / wild with excitement. Truth be told, it was a perfect day, with a truly delightful ending. The Date was May 28, 2012 ….What ended so perfectly, also turned out to be the last public performance that Alvin Lee was ever to give. 

Plans For Paris:

It was a short time after the Raalte concert in May 2012, that we heard some rumblings about the next Alvin Lee performance to take place. The rumour being spread around was Paris, France, with the venue being “The Olympia” where Alvin had played before, back in 2008. The new performance date was April 7, 2013, a whole ten months away. A life-time of waiting. I personally am unable to remember a time where a tour date was confirmed and announced so quickly, and yet being so far in the future, but this was indeed the case. 

Still On The Road To Freedom:

Between the Raalte, Holland concert, and the upcoming Paris gig, Alvin’s brand new cd was released in late summer of 2012. Brilliant timing as this was the perfect set up for the next concert. Thirteen new tunes, and people were getting stoked / excited about it. Everyone loved the new cd and offered their opinions. Some just because they loved everything Alvin does. While other just got on the band wagon because it was actually a great piece of work. He found an inner peace, maybe through his solitude in painting,  writing, or being with  Evi. You could see it in his body language, on his face, in his voice and in his playing. In Raalte you caught the essence of Alvin Lee the man, more than Alvin the entertainer / performer or living legend. He was there in body, his soul burned brightly, and his spirit belonged to the cosmos. He looked happy, healthy and fit. We saw nothing to the contrary that would indicate otherwise. In fact, he never looked better.   


 Rock In Peace Mr. Lee:

Alvin Lee died on March 6, 2013 – after a routine medical procedure, to release pressure on his heart, a shunt was being installed to open up a blocked artery. His blood pressure became erratic / uncontrollable, until his weakened heart suddenly stopped beating.       


Pre – Paris Trip:

Everyone who was planning on attending this concert was excited. They had time to save their money and prepare. At long last people knew, if they haven’t seen Alvin perform live in concert this was their chance, because after Paris, there would be no guarantee. For me personally, it was a historic landmark gig, as Johnny Winter and Alvin Lee haven’t been on the same concert bill since 1983 and that was 30 years ago.

Blues Before Sunrise:

We had everything in order, long before Alvin’s passing. Train tickets, hotel reservations, concert tickets and money put aside. I learned about Alvin’s passing from Peter in Holland. A friend so trusted, that all I could say was “Oh Shit” where did you hear this Peter? Then silence between us…words were useless. When Brigitte heard the sad news she too was in shock, and asked if it was really true. A few days went by, and I was wondering what to do next. Should we get a refund on our concert and train tickets, and cancel our hotel reservations? I decided that if Lionel, Peter and Theo were all still willing to continue with this trip, we would all go together, in tribute to the late great guitarist, Alvin Lee.  

It’s now less than a week before the concert, four days from now, we leave Germany for Paris. In past concert events, I’ve conjured up the proper attitude, game plan and strategy before  even leaving the house. We have everything down to a relative science, in packing and travelling together. In the morning we leave, for the “City of Lights” with love and sorrow in our hearts. April in Paris wasn’t suppose to be like this, but I don’t make the rules in this life.

Friday April 6, 2013

9:00-am we leave and arrive at 4:15-pm – fifteen minutes later Peter and Theo arrive from Hoorn, Holland. We walk to the hotel, check in, and then check out some of the city sights around us. Some drinks and dinner and then back to the hotel for some sleep.

Saturday April 7, 2013

Breakfast, and then take the metro to the city of Paris, historical sight-seeing. Then back to the hotel to meet Lionel and get ready for this evenings event. Back on the metro into the city once again. During our afternoon trip we stopped by the Olympia Venue to see about getting photo passes for Peter and Brigitte, so now we can follow up and make sure everything is in order for this evenings show. So far so good, passes are at the ready. The next situation is that Lionel never got his concert tickets in the mail, so now this needs to be straightened out, no problem as the tickets are sitting right there waiting for us.

The “Olympia”

Excellent, beautiful place, like an old time plush movie theatre, complete with rich maroon upholstery, luxuriant seats, fit for a king and queen of France and adorned the same all around, with red carpets and comfortable lightning throughout. We took our seats and I checked out the people around us. I started talking to a man and his sun behind us, I have records in my collection older than this kid…while his father is an old rocker like myself.

I was hearing rumours of Alvin’s guitar being placed on stage, with a spotlight directed on it, as part of the tribute to him, and the possibility that Evi would come on stage and say a few words to the audience about his sudden passing. What we got instead was, an audio version of Woodstock 1969 version of  Ten Years After performing “I’m Going Home” for evermore. The emotional tidal-wave commenced….hearts full of sadness, eyes full of tears, no one could help from crying this time around. I was looking at the stage, where Alvin should have been standing, looking at all of us and doing his bit. I am hearing the voice of a young Englishman right out of Nottingham and into world acclaim on a moist / humid / sultry evening on Max Yasgurs farm, in an alfalfa field, with half a million people in attendance  music blasting our ears with total delight, and blowing our minds with grief for the now mature man with the ES-335 Cherry Red Gibson guitar, dead at 68. I hear Alvin through the speakers singing, “I love my baby, love my baby so” and he’s also talking in my head saying, “do you want more rock and roll – well, that’s what we came here for”. The song comes to it’s predictable ending just as Alvin life come to its predestined, final curtain call. I envision a huge watermelon waddling horizontally across that Woodstock stage, then slung over his shoulder as he lumbers off  with it wavering precariously close to dropping the green melon and splattering it all over the place.

A Moment of Silence:

There are some stage announcements in French, just by the tone of it, it’s sympathetic to Alvin’s passing, and the speaker is very emotional about it, having a difficult time getting the words out to a packed house of Alvin Lee / Ten Years After  and music fans in general.  No one would want to be in his shoes at this moment, and he did an excellent job getting through it. Please a moment of silence. I’d swear that everyone took a collective inhale and then total silence. If the lights were turned off, you would think you were the only one in the entire huge venue. There was not a cough, sneeze, or any sound what-so-ever! The world stopped for one minute, as I looked down over the massive audience standing below me. The fans who couldn’t be there with us, were in fact with us. Alvin was there with all of us, his presence was almost visible, it was that strong. The feeling I got was that Alvin was content with his new non-form-in spirit-only. He was content, and that was all I needed to know. That minute seemed like an eternity, you could hear thousands of tear-drops hitting  the floor….and Alvin saying, “no you shouldn’t do that – I’m coming on, oh yeah – and then the guitar break on the song Bad Scene, following Ric’s little drum roll lead in……then after that raving guitar fury, the sounds of Alvin talking quietly at the beginning of fifty thousand miles beneath my brain, the very first time I heard that song so long ago.  The moment ended. Alvin’s at peace now, we are a long way from any peace of mind, as our loss is greater, he rode on without us. If I’m not mistaken there was respectful applause after the moment, followed by more stage announcements. Yes Alvin, this is what we came here for, to pay our respects to your passing.


Let The Show Begin:

Tommy Emanuel is from Australia, and he plays excellent acoustic guitar. He is a good performer, and on this sad occasion, he did what needed to be done, he made us all feel much better than when we entered. A nearly impossible task indeed. He showed guts, talent and confidence right out of the gate. He blew the blues away within ten minutes, this guy was not messing around, he was serious and he made us less serious in the process. The transference of negative energy, into positive energy is a wonderful thing. Let the healing process begin. I have no idea what songs he played, or how long he performed, in fact I was unaware of this guitarist until a few weeks before the concert, that’s my mistake. To you Mr. Emanuel, thank you sir, from the heart.

Johnny Gallagher is from Ireland, I never heard of this gentleman either, but our friend Peter certainly knows of his reputation and great talent. Johnny is another artists who stands on stage in total control, he watches and listens to what’s going on around him. He goes with the flow, and considers himself to be a part of the overall show and not the main performer. He wants everyone there to have a good time, including himself. Starting with a spilled glass of water on stage, that he made a point of to the audience and crew, when out comes a brand new bottle of wine to appease Mr. Gallagher, who suddenly changed his attitude. The band was setting up for ten minutes or so, so he was kind of entertaining us as he went along. Again I have no memory of the songs played, and it makes no never-mind because the guy put on a great show. There was an audience sing along in the middle of the set that made this little community sing out loud and really enjoy themselves. Johnny knew just how to pace the song and time out, there was no hurry here, he drank his wine, took his time and made it all work out just fine in the end….Peter was in heaven watching his star of the night on stage, doing a class act under battle conditions as they were….so to our friend Peter and to Johnny Gallagher our thanks for such a great time in Paris, you have a new fan.

Edgar Winter, who I’ve never seen perform live on stage, but who I always bought his albums as they were released just as I did his brothers. Edgar Winter’s “White Trash” a fantastic album – “They Only Come Out At Night” made him even more famous. So tonight he played “Free Ride” and I remember  nothing else, his set was short, he pranced around the stage and uttered some nonsense along the way. He came across as arrogant and bored to be there, like a man fishing for dollar signs was his main incentive, according to his body language – yes one “Cool Fool” for sure. Enter Robben Ford on guitar for a song or two, who never got to strut his stuff on this night – such a shame too!  Where Johnny Gallagher was a real high, Edgar was not only a downer, but a real drag, who played some keyboard, some saxophone and tried to sing and scream as if he was enjoying himself. You know the old saying, if you can fake sincerity you’ve got it made in the shade….in this case ain’t nothin´ shakin´ not even the leaves on the tree! When Edgar says, “people keep asking me, where’s your brother?”  well he’s right here tonight.

Johnny Winter, the legend or the reality. I’m sorry Johnny, time has come to bow out gracefully sir. Your mojo has seen much better days. Ladies and Gentleman Johnny Winter, as he walks out under his own steam to centre stage, very carefully and diligently.  He stands there and starts playing and singing, looking positively helpless, frail and weakened by life. Hard to believe that Johnny is still here and Alvin is gone. But Johnny is all heart and soul, with more guts and talent than most mortal men, past or present. I will not kick him when he’s down, just listen to his 1969 album, and stand proud with him, be in awe, and smile as you watch him perform, old age is not anyone’s fault. No longer a superstar of years gone by, he’s now a family member in need of support, care and respect. His voice is very weak, but slightly stronger than the last time we saw him. He’s slightly stronger than before, as he had to sit down to play, he’s making a real effort to keep on keeping on until it’s time to be called home – God Bless Him I Say!  His set is doing ok for the first few songs, then it become obvious that he forgot to get out of the song he’s playing. So, round and round he goes, endlessly. The band is restless, the bass player visits the drummer and keyboard player, telling them “yeah, I know, just go with it” – as I watch Johnny, he’s not looking for an ending, he’s just playing on, can we fault him for enjoying playing? He knows we’re there, just a few feet from the edge of the stage, he gets comfort from that I’m positive. I believe that he’s playing for himself, thankful to be able to play at all, don’t take this away from me dear lord!  It’s all I know for sure Johnny’s thinking, music always saved me, music is my friend and salvation this I know.

As soon as Johnny starts playing the slide guitar, the entire bottom falls out of his performance, people start leaving in modest numbers, but going just the same. Within ten more minutes, a few hundred have left. After a half hour, the playing is simply unbearable. After an hour, the music is practically unrecognizable, his band is frustrated, the audience is bored and heading for the bar and the door. I sit and watch, and remember how he used to be on stage, all doped up and full of energy – pissed at an audience who were just sitting there like limp wash rags, hanging lifeless on a rack. Now the situation is reversed, Johnny is far from lifeless, but a little closer to death, as we all are everyday. He my friends, is just a shadow of what he used to be, a victim of living and not a casualty like many others. If you think that I’m being hard on the old boy, forget it, other witnesses have been down right crude and rude of the Johnny Winter of 2013. If you pay to see him, respect the fact that he’s doing it his way and as best he can, and smile about it. Otherwise, stay away, go to your nearest music store, youtube or online music source and let him touch your heart and soul.

The set finally ends, it’s a real blessing. Johnny walks himself off the stage, he then returns for one last song, to which the venue is much more vacant, but I sit and watch Johnny every minute, for I’m sure that we won’t have the opportunity to see him playing live in concert ever again, and I want my memories of him to be positive and compassionate. This is the last time – God, Time and Causality will be the final calling for Johnny Winter. He sits down one last time, drinks some more of his tequila from a water bottle sitting on his right hand side, and plays the last song of the evening – good night Mr. Winter and thank you for coming out tonight! 

In Between the Show:

I had an on going conversation with a man and woman who showed up an hour late and ended up in our row, right next to me. Come to find out, he was the road manager for Johnny Gallagher from Ireland, the second act on the bill. Before long we were having a grand old time, talking and observing everything in the venue, including a huge shadow on the opposite wall from the keyboard player on stage  left, that we both found so incredibly amusing. After the concert, Lionel and Theo disappeared to find Peter and Brigitte I imagine, while I stayed with the manager and the nice folk behind me.

Pieter Kentrop, Eric and Jane, Graeme Armstrong and his daughter Amy got to meet our crew after the show, a missed opportunity on my part, sorry Pieter, see you somewhere on down the line I hope. I went out the side door, while everyone else was waiting in the lobby, I was out front under the huge marquee above, the poster of this concert was missing from the ticket area, oh well, it had nothing about Alvin Lee on it, just Johnny Winter and friends. Caught up with the little family of friends and headed back to the hotel.


The Overall Consensus:

I personally thought that the concert was overall good on its own merits, but we would never again make a special trip to Paris, France just for a concert. We came to pay our respects, first and foremost. Secondly, to see the sights Paris has to offer. The weather was good but very chilly, we rode around on a topless Double Decker tour bus of the city. Went around the Eiffel Tower, saw Notre Dame, checked out the Louvre, Montmartre, Champs Elysée.

The people were excellent, the food expensive and the drinks even more so, life in the big city. It was clean, friendly and a happy place to be. Would love to return someday when we had more time and money to spend.

A heartfelt thanks to Brigitte, Theo, Lionel and Peter for making this experience another memorable one. We may not have gone without your support and company. A special thanks to you Lionel, for coming in for this special event, it was a real pleasure to see you again. As for the others in our little family, safe to say the music wasn’t all to Theo’s liking as he fell asleep during Johnny Winters set, and who could blame him. Others didn’t like Johnny Emmanuel or Edger Winter – but thought Johnny Gallagher was just alright…..and Johnny Winter took the roughest beating of the evening. The people I found were excellent company we had a great time, and I thank them all – the only thing that was missing was Alvin Lee.


The Sun Was Shining, But It’s Raining In My Heart:

Yes, this is a concert that Alvin intended to play. He was very much looking forward to it. But it just wasn’t meant to be. Alvin went out on a high note, make no mistake about it friends. He went solo in 1973 and his new release was gaining traction in 2013.

On The Road To Freedom and Still On The Road To Freedom completed the cycle. No more sad refrains, his legend and legacy are firmly intact, your home music libraries prove that to be a fact. Gone but never forgotten.


by David Willey




Tribute to Alvin Lee - A Minute Of Silence


The Moment of Reflection - treasured by Pieter Kentrop


Review by David Scott:  The Ezine – Alvin Lee Tribute Concert in Paris 4.12.13



Tribute to Alvin Lee Media Tributes Concert at L'Olympia, Paris Review

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