Peter Green - vocals, guitar; Jeremy Spencer - vocals, guitar; John McVie - bass; Mick Fleetwood - drums
After distinguishing himself and achieving a level of recognition in Europe, like Eric Clapton before him, Peter Green departed John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, freeing himself of employment and artistic restrictions. However, unlike most of the British guitar greats, Green was never concerned with flash or becoming a guitar superstar - an attitude that made him one of the most compelling of all the British guitar players from the 1960s. Green could play incisively and cleanly, but was equally adept at ripping with tremendous power. This made listening to any of Green's material a rewarding experience; many of his originals have a timeless quality that still sounds fresh and intriguing today.
This outstanding early performance by Fleetwood Mac occurred only a week into their first visit to the United States, when Peter Green was only 21 years old. Falling right between the release of their self-titled debut album and their follow-up, Mr. Wonderful, this show captures the band in its early incarnation, when they were still a quartet - and one of the Crusaders of the late '60s English blues movement. Peter Green was the chief architect of the band's sound at this point, and was providing the bulk of their original material. Green was beginning to explore music outside traditional blues, and his playing could be wonderfully restrained one minute and powerfully explosive the next, marked by a distinctive vibrato and economy of style. His haunting, sweet-yet-melancholy tone was very distinctive, and was blessed with an inherently human quality that other British guitarists often struggled for.
At this early stage, Jeremy Spencer comprised the band's other creative force. Spencer could authentically recreate Elmore James onstage, and this novel ability, along with a ribald sense of humor (shared by the entire band), helped fuel the band's early stage shows. Spencer could also create dead-on parodies of 1950s rock 'n' roll songs, often of the teen idol variety, giving the band an onstage theatrical element that was both funny and entertaining. The band's overt sense of humor, in addition to their accomplished musicianship, certainly endeared them to many of the San Francisco music elite.
The set begins in fine fashion with Elmore James' "Madison Blues," and Green and Spencer trading relatively simple licks over a relaxed shuffle to warm things up. "My Baby's Skinny" provides the audience their first taste of Peter Green's delicious guitar tone. The number is a great early vehicle for Green, who takes lead vocal and peals off biting leads that display his innate ability to play with both penetrating directness and tensioned restraint. Riley King's "Worried Dream" follows; a lengthy, slow blues number, the tune demonstrates Green at his best, delivering heartfelt vocals and delicious guitar work with great nuance and style.
Two more Elmore James classics are up next, showcasing Jeremy Spencer, and proving just how well he had mastered James' feel for slide guitar. Both "Dust My Broom" and "Got To Move" feature distinctly different facets of James' best work and Spencer has a strong handle on both. The group keeps a relaxed groove going underneath that lets Spencer shine. "Trying So Hard To Forget" is an early Peter Green original that has more of a vocal than an instrumental focus, but fits right in with the band's early repertoire nonetheless.
The most fascinating number of this set comes next, and again, clearly demonstrates Green's greatest strengths as a performer. His take on Freddy King's "Have You Ever Loved A Woman," a song that would eventually become synonymous with Eric Clapton, is equally as virtuosic, and in some ways even more refined. This is the stuff that made B.B. King himself refer to Peter Green as "the only man to ever make me sweat." The band increases the tempo and the set speeds to a close with one of Green's original numbers from their forthcoming second album, Lazy Poker Blues. This new (at the time) number stays close to the studio arrangement, featuring tight ensemble playing and a sizzling guitar solo from Green.
-Written by Alan Bershaw
© 2019 CV.org. All rights reserved.