This year's Nidaros Blues Festival has had to face some major problems, all caused by the ash clouds from Iceland. The festival had a great lineup, and blues lovers all over Norway have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time. But some of the headliners - Anson Funderburgh, Candi Staton, NineBelow Zero, the up and coming star, Joanne Shaw Taylor - had their flights cancelled because of the volcano ash. Fortunately the organizers, led by Jan Engen and booking manager Kjell Inge Brovoll, showed incredible determination, and, against all odds, they managed to put together a great show.
Some travellers we met at The Royal Garden Hotel told stories about seemingly endless trips by bus, car and train, just to get to Trondheim.
When it came to Friday's musical offerings, The Fabulous Thunderbirds was the band everybody talk about (picture below). As always, there were different opinions whether the concert had been good or bad, but the majority seemed satisfied. I had a nice chat with piano player Gene Taylor, who had been in town since Wednesday. He was pleased to have a lot of gigs at Nidaros. He had also played with the T-birds the night before.
There were many changes to the concert program for Friday and Saturday, and we received the good news that Charlie Musselwhite and his eminent band would replace Anson Funderburgh. Festival leaders Engen and Brovoll, somehow got Musselwhite, who was stuck in Stavanger, on an already sold-out train to Trondheim. Well done! Other replacements were Alexander Lindbäck, the local band Body & Soul, the bluesrock trio Varpen, the Norwegian singer Elg, and Hans Bollandsås.
Groovy boogie woogie piano greeted me as I came out of the elevator Saturday morning. Gene Taylor, formerly of The Blasters and T-Birds, had started his set. It's a delight to see and hear Taylor in action. Not only is he a good piano player, but he also sings very well. Gene was much appreciated by the audience.
In the restaurant Cicignon, the stage was set for a happening with the well-known Jolly Jumper & Big Moe, together with bass player, pianist Daniel Rossing, and a drummer who had a very untraditional drum kit (picture below). Under the name Big Moe Blues Band, they were set to perform songs from their upcoming album ; for the first time live. The hall was filled with people and the band was very excited, since the session was also to be filmed. But there was no need for concern. The new songs were well received by an enthusiastic audience.
The first band on the main stage Saturday was Norwegian, Geir "No Fish" Bertheussen Blues Express, warming up the audience for the Charlie Musselwhite Band. "No Fish" appeared on stage in his famous Bowler hat and Hawaiian shirt. He dedicated the show to the late blues DJ and "blues guru", Geir Hovig, and asked that we not forget him. A nice gesture that was appreciated by the audience. Geir and the band played their Chicago blues, and made a good effort, but they would fit even better on a smaller stage. Geir is a very good harmonica player, not all the world as a singer, but an entertainer with humor and energy. All in all, a very good concert.
After a short break, it was time for the legendary Charlie Musselwhite. There were no surprises here. Charlie is an outstanding harmonica player and a competent singer, and I think he sings even better than before. The band is, of course great, and Charlie is, in his charming and gently southern way, a humble and inclusive band leader. It is simply a joy to attend a concert with him and the band. He also invited his old and good friend Gene Taylor to play with them. A great concert.
The audience this weekend seemed satisfied, and the entire festival staff deserves honour for the way they handled the festival in this bizarre situation. We must give extra credit to the artists who stepped in as replacement bands. And, last but not least, we must also thank the audience for supporting the festival in this difficult situation. I'm sure Nidaros Blues will come back stronger than ever.
And so does the festival director Jan Engen who is already looking forward to 2011. At the festival's website he addressed the employees and public:
- Thanks to all who in one way or another helped us to reach the goal with this year's blues festival, said Engen. - Lots of people have worked around the clock to solve the challenges we had, and ensured that the festival could be carried out despite all the changes. Also a big thanks to our faithful audience who did not let us down, even though the program did not turn out as planned.
Text: Geir-Anders Norlid - Photo: Ove Sandvin