LIVE: Eric Bibb – City Varieties, Leeds, 20/05/2023 1

LIVE: Eric Bibb – City Varieties, Leeds, 20/05/2023

It is now nearly a quarter of a century since I first saw Eric Bibb in concert. On that sunny July afternoon in 1999 at Cambridge Folk Festival he was wearing his customary wide-brimmed hat and delivered a most rousing set of acoustic blues. Sat here on this famous stage tonight he is again sporting very similar headwear and it is hard to believe that this American-born blues singer and songwriter will turn 72 in August. And just like the man himself, the music that he plays does not seem to age. It remains timeless. 

Twice nominated for a Grammy and the recipient of many Blues Foundation awards, Eric Bibb is not content to rest on his laurels. Nor is he showing any signs of slowing down.  Now more than fifty years into a recording career, Bibb has followed up the multiple award-winning, critically acclaimed 2021 album Dear America with the release of Ridin’. And to support the release of his new album in March, the legendary bluesman embarked upon one of his most intensive tours to date, taking in Australia and France before heading over to the UK and Ireland. 

“Everybody has a story”, Eric Bibb says. He has many, many of his own; others he has heard from old bluesmen. Some are good, and some are bad. But all are informed by human experience and Bibb recreates each one so vividly through the words of the songs that he plays. His empathy for others and the deep moral courage he has in the face of historical division and discrimination shines through his music.

3AB84308 9731 4540 91E4 70E5A54DDEBB

He opens by himself with ‘Goin’ Down Slow’, an old blues standard first recorded in 1941 by St. Louis Jimmy Oden, and ends a dozen songs later with a resounding blast of his own ‘In My Father’s House’. In the interim, he is joined for the most part by his stellar band comprising guitarist Michael Jerome Browne, one of Canada’s finest roots musicians and who had already put in a sterling shift as this evening’s support act; Glen Scott, who has produced and co-written many of Eric Bibb’s records over the years and who plays bass guitar and keyboards on this tour; and the mighty Paul Robinson on drums, a man who had previously worked with Nina Simone for some 20 years. Ulrika Bibb, Eric’s wife, also adds some delightful harmonies to first ‘Send Us Brighter Days’ and then later, a stirring version of ‘Needed Time’, a song Bibb had learnt from fellow blues legend Taj Mahal and which was propelled even further along its path by some well-coordinated clapping from the crowd.

Eric Bibb flies solo on another couple of tunes in the middle of his set – ‘500 Miles’, one of four songs drawn from Ridin’, and ‘Come Back Baby’. Both are informed by his having grown up in New York City in the 1960s and experiencing first-hand the folk music renaissance that was taking place in Greenwich Village.

He met many of the luminaries of the time, including a certain Bob Dylan who offered him the following sage advice. “Keep it simple; forget all the fancy stuff.” Nearly 60 years later, Eric Bibb still adheres to those basic principles and his music continues to benefit from such enlightenment. It is an undoubted joy to reconnect with the man and his music.

Photos: Simon Godley

8E117DFC D28D 4D73 8C55 939F7CC5818F

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.