‘Cause he’s got a voice that’d make Tom Waits go “damn man what did you do to yourself?!”, you can’t understand a word James Leg sings.

But good-God-damn you know he means it. Sweat rolls off him like venom from a rattler’s fangs, hair and limbs fly as his fingers tear up the ivories and all the while that voice growls howls and spits lyrics at a microphone like it said something about his mother.

The veins bulge on the drummer’s neck as James slams an open palm down on his Fender Rhodes and lets the keyboard do the talking. If you’ve never heard a keyboard feed back, then you simply aren’t living.

And when he steps on that wah-wah pedal, that keyboard hits you right in your animal soul. In a previous incarnation Leg was a preacher. These days, he’s spreading the good word.

James Leg is the go-to guy for people who listen to The Killer and think “nah, too tame”. He leaps from the piano stool and sends a high kick flying towards the crowd as the drummer’s primal jungle-beat syncopations catch the ear and pound in your gut. Many a charlatan has taken to the stage and tried to sing the blues. James Leg is no charlatan.

The man has clearly done some living. This is a prime example of man, instrument and experience coming together in a really glorious way to entertain us polite folks downstairs at The Thomas House. James knows what Carlin knew; “it’s not enough to know which notes to play, you have to know why they need to be played.”

And in forty sweltering minutes his set is over. Like being sideswiped by an articulated truck, the audience is left momentarily fearing for their wellbeing. But ultimately, we’re left with one Hell of an adrenaline rush.

The Bonnevilles, on the other hand, could learn a thing or two from the aforementioned George Carlin. Hashing out Zeppelin-esque riffs without the arse-kicking rhythm section to back it up, even the occasional blast of white noise can’t send this performance stratospheric.

And it’s not for lack of trying. Guitarist/vocalist Andrew McGibbon Jnr screams and sweats like a cornered animal, but the cliché-riddled riffs he plays counteract this passion with a certain technically-adept but creatively-stifled weight. Couple that with the bluesman’s usual muses of whiskey and the dark side of love and life, and The Bonnevilles come across as a poor man’s White Stripes.

Drummer Chris is a long way off from Leg’s partner in crime. Where James’ man embellished his beats with ferocious fills and battering toms, Chris is content to merely keep the beat.

And that there is the key: without a-rockin’ and a-rollin’ rhythm section, any band would fall flat. It’s like a comedian without the truth behind them; they may be funny, but there’s no heart in their punches.

Extended instrumental jams pepper the set and wind up over-seasoning the performance. The final song seems to stretch out endlessly into the night, an attempt at a grand finale that missed the steamboat and landed in the shallow end of the Mississippi.

It’s called show-stealing, folks. And Mr. Leg swiped the night right out from under The Bonnevilles’ noses.

by James Fleming

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