Walter Trout, live in Leamington Spa

Battle-scarred blues icon makes a triumphant comeback

TODO alt text

Less than 18 months ago, Walter Trout was close to death, brain damaged and awaiting a liver transplant, the prospect of him ever performing again seemingly impossible. Tonight, several hundred fans witness their idol restored to health, rejuvenated and back to the pinnacle of his career.

Help Me sets the scene, with Trout’s booming vocals and scintillating fretwork interspersed by piercing blasts of Sammy Avila’s Hammond, underpinned by Michael Leasure’s thunderous drumming and Johnny Griparic’s pulsating bass. “I’m glad to be here – I’m glad to be anywhere,” quips Trout to applause, before launching full throttle into Luther Allison’s I’m Back, a song with new meaning.

Despite the underlying melancholy, the atmosphere is one of joyful celebration

A slow blues is dedicated to BB King, before a brief appearance by 10-year-old YouTube sensation Toby Lee, representing the next generation. The next few numbers are from the Battle Scars album, including Almost Gone, Omaha, Haunted By The Night and Fly Away. They tell the harrowing narrative of Trout’s darkest period, the anguished vocals and screaming guitar licks recreating his harrowing experience. The blues doesn’t run any deeper than when expressing the emotion, pain and despair of waiting for a donor to keep you alive.

Despite the underlying melancholy, the atmosphere is one of gratitude, optimism and joyful celebration of life as the show becomes a house party. Special guests Jon Trout and Bernie Marsden duel in turn with the ebullient Walter, part playful but also competitive. Spectacular, extended versions of the classics The Blues Came Callin’ and Rock Me Baby precede the encore demanded by the fans.

Freddie King’s Going Down brings down the curtain after 130 memorable minutes of hard-edged, high- octane blues. Trout’s all-consuming determination to make music again in the face of such adversity is remarkable, his indomitable spirit an inspiration.