It had been forty years since the legendary Jim Mullen last provided his unique stylings on the guitar for Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. Returning for a one-night-only reunion, it was only his unimposing mannerisms and modest demeanour that suggested he had never left the band. His playing illuminated this terrific show, not to mention the rest of the talent that shared the stage.
Auger and his latest incarnation of the Oblivion Express (minus Mullen at first) took to the stage in a well-warmed atmosphere courtesy of an all-vinyl dj set that aptly exhibited all things Hammond! After some cheery introductory banter (Auger rather fancies himself as a bit of a comedian) the group kicked off proceedings with a hefty rendition of Jimmy Smith’s ‘The Cat.’ Mullen was then introduced for the Oblivion Express take on Eddie Harris’ ‘Freedom Jazz Dance’ – originally recorded for Second Wind (1972), the last Auger album to feature him as guitarist. Mullen slipped onto rhythm at first, which at times got drowned out by the sheer power of the Hammond organ. His impact was then felt when he dipped into his first solo with which he displayed such melodious dexterity that awestruck gasps were heard across the venue. A realisation of fortuity was felt all round, knowing this was a one off performance.
Mullen’s excellence must not discredit the rest of the band, who were also on flying high alongside him that evening. Alex Ligertwood’s vocals even at 68 years pack a serious punch, and the Scot didn’t seem to hit a bum-note all evening. Karma Auger on drums proved that his place in the band is far from being a result of nepotism. Mike Clemont had a typically unobtrusive bassist’s persona, but was given a session to get funky before they dived into ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ which sparked gleeful murmurs of the audience who sounded as though they’d been collectively reminded of a once treasured, since forgotten song.
It’s fair to say the average age of attendees was fairly high, and it wasn’t surprising to hear a group of fifty-somethings discuss how they felt very young in the crowd. Yet this didn’t feel like an uncool old-person gig, merely something the younger generations aren’t privileged enough to have discovered.
– Jake Williams