Gig review: Wilko Johnson, ABC, Glasgow

Wilko Johnson is back after a terminal cancer misdiagnosis. Picture: Contributed
Wilko Johnson is back after a terminal cancer misdiagnosis. Picture: Contributed
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FIRSTLY, it’s great just to see Wilko Johnson. Many must have wondered if they would ever witness this cult guitar hero in action again, following a (mis)diagnosis of terminal cancer in 2013. Three years on, he is cancer free but somewhat depleted of his spiky energy following a gruelling operation and convalescence.

Wilko Johnson | Rating: *** | ABC, Glasgow

Overall, this was a slightly underpowered performance from the former Dr Feelgood firebrand, with a few too many momentum-sapping blues breakdowns. After one such guitar-wrangling episode, Johnson was obliged to quickly re-tune. “That’s near enough for rock’n’roll,” he quipped.

His trio certainly came near enough with the gonzo garagey urgency of Going Back Home, propelled along by Dylan Howe’s robust tub-thumping. Bass legend Norman Watt-Roy responded with the irresistible bassline of Roxette – one can only presume that the static crowd of mostly middle-aged men were dancing in their heads.

Johnson dedicated the set to recently deceased punk poet/ranter Jock Scot and was at this best when injecting a bit of his own punk spirit into proceedings. The snottier songs, such as Keep On Loving You from his recent collaboration with Roger Daltrey and the low-slung Velvet Underground/Jonathan Richman groove of Paradise, were more suited to his reedy vocal delivery than the blues workouts.

Dr Feelgood favourite She Does It Right made for an agreeably choppy climax, but there was only one choice of encore, the customary Bye Bye Johnny. At least this time round, the fans can assume they’ll see him again.