Photo of Dennis Greaves from Nine Below Zero

Dennis Greaves & Mark Feltham of Nine Below Zero
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester 8th March 2024

Donning my familiar, well-worn jacket I noticed the merciless digits of our smart-meter displaying the cost of energy spent in the last week. The ritual, pre-gig, tepid beer had me crying…into my wallet. Walking down to the Hall I side-stepped a prostate individual, sat on the floor with legs splayed, surrounded by a “puddle,” pondering a beer in the early evening cold; dear lord, what an experience of first world problems to inspire a night of the Blues.

Once ensconced in our favourite re-appropriated church, we couldn’t miss the legend -“Praise Ye the Lord” – emblazed across the back of the stage. Lest we forget where we were…

Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham, of Nine Below Zero have been performing together since they grew up on the same Peabody housing delta. The evening’s premise of acoustic numbers from the past 45 years, celebrated on a new album entitled Denmark, promised and delivered much for the faithful devotees.

Photo of Mark Feltham from Nine Below Zero
Mark Feltham from Nine Below Zero

After the obligatory silly-goat routine of attempting to climb into the pulpit following their entrance; Greaves and Feltham proved the last 45 years have been a comprehensive education. The energy of the musicianship and musical knowledge on display could not be contained by any smart-meter.

The opening song “Sunny” was a fitting intro to the night. The guitar’s warmth complemented the Blues-tinged voice of Greaves and the sweet sound of Feltham’s harmonica accompanied the song like your chosen beverage and nuts. Huntingdon Hall’s soundman Phil received a special mention from the duo on stage, as the sound complemented the whole show. Hallelujah!

After a state of the nation pre-amble, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, was performed with a solemnity and profundity as befitting a song which captured a previous period of political turbulence. “Earl’s Boogie” by Earl Hooker – following a dissection of Hooker’s place in the Blues legacy – was performed spontaneously. The Harmonica player joined in joyfully, without any knowledge of the song’s inclusion in the set-list…

The musical knowledge imparted from the stage in Greave’s genial manner was worth noting. Whether it was the hinted biography of Johnny Paycheck, the impact of white Blues men like Willie Nelson, or the first Rock and Roll anthem? The well-informed, one-sided conversation added a piquant of interest like a splash of Worcester sauce to a meal. Coupled with Greave’s ability to add humour, insight and an element of confession to his Ted talks, as welcome as a splash of Lea and Perrins to a Chilli: “I love a tin me, I even have one of my Dad’s old tobacco tins.”

“My Dad wanted to give up smoking as he was smoking too much, so he started smoking a pipe.” – Dennis Greaves.

To play the harmonica without anyone thinking about the Last of The Summer Wine tune is a God-given talent. The mellifluous, inhaling and exhaling arias of Feltham’s harmonica sculpted a sound which filled Huntingdon Hall; much like those voices from yesteryear must have – back when people believed.

Believers in the room were obviously familiar with NBZ’s not inconsiderable oeuvre. The highlight was the inclusion of “Riding the L & N” from the Live at the Marquee album. An album which must be the cornerstone of their fanbase? Much enthusiastic head-nodding and seated dancing greeted this driven hymnal R&B number and that familiar intro!

Dennis Greaves and Mark Feltham are Nine Below Zero and their sound is as distinctive and familiar as the original, red and white OXO tin Greaves kept on top of his amp. A time-served tin to keep his guitar tuner and plectrums secure. It’s funny what you reminisce about when given the opportunity. Having met these modest stalwarts of the current Blues scene once again after the gig, I couldn’t help but feel, Lordy, praise be, we still have live music of this calibre to believe in.

Rearranging the frayed-collar of my jacket against the cold and making my way through the town centre on a Friday night; I started whistling the Clash’s London Calling, when Strummer starts singing at the end, for no apparent reason: “I never felt more like singing the Blues”…and I had to concur. Nine Below Zero really have passed the old grey whistle test.

By: The Swilgate Scuttler

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