Live: Aynsley Lister

Norwich Arts Centre February 6, 2024

by Adam Aiken

The quality of Aynsley Lister’s music and playing means he could easily grace much bigger venues than this.

But no one here tonight is moaning about that, as it’s clear from the first chords of Everything I Need – with its tinges of ZZ Top-style boogie – that it’s going to be a musical masterclass.

The trio are tight throughout (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
The trio are tight throughout (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

Soundman, which is a proper rock tune, is followed by Eve Part 1. A complete change of pace, this one was apparently inspired after Lister watched Killing Eve. He says afterwards that it could make for a Bond soundtrack. He’s probably joking, but he’s actually not wrong.

The acoustics of the Arts Centre are just right for this show, and the sound throughout the evening is top-notch.

It's a masterclass by Aynsley Lister (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
It’s a masterclass by Aynsley Lister (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

And the whole feel of the place – partly due to its history – makes it the perfect venue for an intimate show such as this.

One of the things on the wall at the back of this former church is a memorial to John Rodwell, who died in 1764 and was buried in a vault below. John won’t have got to enjoy music like this back in the day, and fingers crossed he also won’t have come across too many dickheads like the pair at the back of the room who insist on shouting loudly to each other throughout the early part of the set.

Aynsley Lister and Jono Martin (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
Aynsley Lister and Jono Martin (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

The great British way of dealing with them – aiming extremely angry-looking stares in their direction – doesn’t seem to do the trick, but eventually one of them wanders off for a fag and a pint, leaving his buddy with no one to bore along to.

And once that unwelcome din has gone, Lister’s majestic playing comes over even better to those of us at the back.

It's the perfect venue for this sort of performance (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
It’s the perfect venue for this sort of performance (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

The extended nature of the songs means there’s time for only half a dozen tracks or so before the interval, but Lister comfortably steers clear of self-indulgent solos or unnecessary grandstanding.

The solos and longer sections always stay true to the songs, and there’s no pretentious showing off for its own sake.

Jono Martin on bass (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
Jono Martin on bass (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

When we all get back from the bar (including, unfortunately, the chatterboxes who’ve decided they want to annoy everyone a bit longer), it’s quickly apparent that the second half of the evening is going to be just as good as the first.

Jono Martin on bass and drummer Craig Bacon make up the other two-thirds of Lister’s current touring band, and their tightness stands out in songs such as Hurricane.

There are few better at this game than Aynsley Lister (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
There are few better at this game than Aynsley Lister (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

It’s a song that that would have slotted nicely into a Fleetwood Mac set, and the intricacies of the trio’s playing in this one are a highlight of the evening.

Like Hurricane, Running Out On Me is from 2009’s Equilibrium album, but the contrast between the two songs highlights how Lister has never churned out the same old stuff on auto-pilot. The latter number is much more in the vein of 12-bar blues. There’s another cracking solo in this one, too.

Craig Bacon on drums (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
Craig Bacon on drums (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

Towards the end, Lister introduces Made Up My Mind as being inspired by Jimi Hendrix, and the influence is easy to hear.

It’s in this one that Bacon – who’s based not far from here and who has his own mini fan club in the audience tonight – gets his drum solo. As with Lister’s own guitar playing, the beauty of Bacon’s solo is that it remains true to the song. It’s not one of those wanky show-off moments that so many bands include that bring the whole flow of a set to a crashing halt.

The set covers Aynsley Lister's career (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
The set covers Aynsley Lister’s career (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

Made Up My Mind is one of only a couple of songs tonight from Lister’s most recent album, Along For The Ride, which is a shame, but it’s testament to the quality of his catalogue that there are so many great tunes he can’t find room for.

It’s been an evening of original songs tinged with a range of influences, but the show ends with an actual cover.

The guitarist makes it a night to remember  (Picture: Laurence Harvey)
The guitarist makes it a night to remember (Picture: Laurence Harvey)

Purple Rain has long been a staple of Lister’s sets, and he delivers a mean version. Never straying too far from the original but putting his own stamp on it, you’d do well to find any tribute band deliver a better take on this classic.

It’s a spectacular conclusion to a brilliant couple of hours. John Rodwell, if he’s still down there, will have been dancing in his grave.

One Response

  1. Well over half a century ago I used to write reviews of ‘new’ bands (Genesis, Lindisfarne, Slade, Ginger Baker’s Airforce, etc.) for a regional newspaper. This review is exceptional and took me way back. Thank you. I have to agree that, whilst Aynsley Lister is an wonderful guitarist, with Craig Bacon and Jono Martin he has found ‘mates’ (you’ve got to be good to look like you’re having so much fun), who create a stadium-busting band. Great review, great words – for all readers. I just happen to agree with every syllable.

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