Day 2 - Tuesday, Feb 16, 2016: As day two of the Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea cruise comes around, the shipmates aboard the Norwegian Pearl have found their sea legs, and as today’s theme is buccaneer’s ball, the motley crew of salty dogs are working on the old pirate trick to avoid the dreaded scurvy and downing mimosas for breakfast. Yaaaargh. Etc.
Up on the pool deck, Eric Bibb is making the most of the sunshine alongside Michael Jerome Browne by cooking up a laid back blues feast tailor made for lounging about too. Bliss. Down in the atrium, meanwhile, his namesake Eric Gallas is at the other end of the energy scale, tearing through a crackling Boogie Man to get even the most lily livered landlubber howling in response.
There’s plenty going on outside of the live sets today too. Alligator Records’ Bruce Iglauer is imparting his blues wisdom in the Stardust Theatre, before Robert Randolph gives a masterclass in slide guitar - a subject he knows more about than most. Johnny A is getting grey matter throbbing with his blues trivia quiz, and some of the more romantic pirates aboard are renewing their vows on the upper deck. It’s all less smoochy - but arguably more fun - in the Bliss nightclub though, where a beer tasting session in aid of Joe Bonamassa’s Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation is getting just the right level of rowdy, and by the end of it more than a few participants need to head off for a tactical nap.
This evening’s Bonamassa show sees the man whose name is on the door step back and allow Beth Hart to take the limelight, leaving her to provide the vocals while he gets on with the guitar heroics behind her. And what vocals they are, with a knockout punch that has passing dolphins sticking their heads above the waves to catch a piece of the action.
Relaxed and clearly enjoying herself, Hart belts out classics such as I’d Rather Go Blind and Nutbush City Limits like she owns them, while her own songs take her from a heart-wrenching croon to a tooth-rattling crescendo, sometimes in the space of the same song. And yet, despite being a masterclass in stagecraft, it’s not the highlight of the evening. That accolade goes to Vintage Trouble in the Stardust Theatre.
If the world was a kinder place, Vintage Trouble would be huge. It’s not just a name, this band are timeless, and in Ty Taylor they have one of the greatest frontmen working in blues and soul today, a killer mix of James Brown, Otis Redding and a smidge of Tina Turner. Within seconds he has the entire theatre on its feet, as he slaps hands with the front row and slips and slides across the stage like his bones are made of rubber. He owns the place, climbing across the seats to mix with the audience, dragging us all along in his aura of pure charisma, angel wings of sweat forming quickly on the back of his powder blue suit.
It’s always a joy to see a singer having an absolute ball, but when they do it this slickly, and with a voice made of molten gold, it takes things to another level. And the band are no slouches either, a unit drilled to military precision, although the drummer looks more than a little taken aback when Taylor gives the audience his room number and invites them to carry on the fun there. As they bring this to a boiling close with Run Like The River, and we’re given a heartfelt message of togetherness and positivity from Taylor, it’s hard not to wish they’d start it all again so it doesn’t have to end. You’d sell your parrot and your wooden leg for another go on this amazing ride.