Rocking in the Mountains of Spain.
“What was your last gig before lockdown?” must be one of the most frequently asked questions of the past year. As we look forward to a return to live music that could be replaced by “who would you most like to see?” Give ‘Los Campeones En Vivo’ a listen and the answer may very well be Danny & The Champions of the World. Their new double live album is a gloves-off aural pummelling that captures totally the band’s deserved reputation on the boards.
Whether or not to repay the love from their fans in Spain Danny & The Champions of the World certainly found an ideal venue there to record live. The album, made in 2018, drips with sweat and excitement and being recorded to tape creates a sound that amplifies (quite literally) the band’s blend of alt-country, rock and soul.
A lot of the setlist comes from their last two studio albums. A quick ‘hola’ then a menacing riff opens ‘Let The Water Wash Over You (Don’t You Know)’, Danny Wilson rasps out the first few lines and they are off into a nine-minute jam starring guitarist Paul Lush. And that is just the first track.
On their more recent releases the Champs have taken their alt-country roots towards rock and soul which certainly comes across live. ’Consider Me’ and ‘Never in the Moment’ have a southern rock feel along the lines of Skynyrd or more up to date, Blackberry Smoke. As Henry Senior Jr’s glistening pedal steel come to the fore on ‘This is Not a Love Song’, ‘Stay True’ and ‘Waiting for the Right Time’ the Champs lean more toward the Marshall Tucker Band.
But such comparisons are merely indicators. Danny & The Champions of the World are their own sound and on the strength of this, best appreciated live. Recent recruit Thomas Collison’s keys add a further dimension as the band dip into their back catalogue to stretch out ‘Every Beat of My Heart’ to its fullest splendour. Powered by Chris Clarke’s bass and Steve Brookes’s drums another blistering solo from Lush similarly elongates the more recent ‘Coley Point’.
The soulful ‘Brothers in the Night’ turns into a hypnotic anthem that loops continuously around those Asturias mountains. Another old favourite ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’, is given the full live treatment, ‘Everything We Need’ swaggers with the pure joy of performing live and perhaps their finest piece of Americana, ‘Restless Feet’ brings the show to a rousing close.
From start to finish Danny & The Champions of the World are relentless. To describe the performance as high energy is something of an understatement. but throughout their musicianship always shines. If the definition of a top live album is “I wish I had been there” then this is it. Magnifico, Los Campeones.