John Mayall and Dave Mason March 20, 2009
By Glen Creason
It is sad but sometimes the old time big names hide diminished talent and offer lackluster concerts. In rock and roll music this can be particularly disappointing because it sort of mirrors the fade of youthful glory in all our lives. At Cerritos on a fine Friday night the opposite was in fantastic evidence as John Mayall and Dave Mason just lit up the big hall with loud, lovely blues and rock and roll, played the way it should be done with passion tempered by experience. It did the big boomer crowd’s collective heart good to see both men in such fine fettle, singing like it was 1968 and playing the guitar to teach the few youngsters in the house a lesson.
Mayall opened the show, his mane of hair now snowy white but his voice not much different than when he growled “California” back when gas was twenty-seven cents a gallon. The opening blues jam spiced as were most of the Mayall set by fiery guitar solos from Rocky Athas and a solid young band that had to run to keep up with the old pro. There were the familiar ones that we heard back in the 60’s like “Chicago Line,” “the Bear,” the aforementioned “Ca-a-a-a-lifornia” and the evergreen “Room to Move” that were so strong and so fine they had folks standing up and dancing. The organ playing of Tom Canning was electrifying but when Mayall blew his trademark blues harp time seemed to stand still.
After a brief interlude to allow the audience to take a whistle-stop, Dave Mason took the stage, he of the early 1970’s classic pop-rock and roll albums. Mason has never been much for showmanship but on this night he just let his guitar do the talking and it came through very loud but quite clear. Mixing the old with a few new ones Mason just put on a master’s class with his telecaster, sending notes in bushels over the spellbound crowd. There were tunes representing the major scenes in his career including the beautiful “World In Changes,” Only You Know and I Know” and “Look at Me, Look at You” from the truly classic “Alone Together” album that sounds as good today as it did when I snatched it off the shelves of “the Sound Seller” in 1970. There were some great hard rocking Traffic tunes including “40,000 Headmen” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” with high decibel exhilaration pumped up by the organ magic of Bill Mason, the thundering bass of Gerald Johnson and the powerhouse drumming of Alvino Bennet. The highlight of the entire night may just have been the face-melting guitar solo of Johnne Sambatoro that exemplified the spirit of hard rock and roll. Dave Mason had the guts to throw in several new songs which were well received, especially “Let Me Go” which preceded a finishing romp of the poignant “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave” and a totally rocked out “All Along the Watchtower which showed Mason to be at the peak of his powers and in no way looking down any hill.