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I would consider myself a fan and champion of new music, and try to play my part in gaining exposure for unsigned and talented bands. I’m also getting a little long in the tooth at 52 years old, so understandably, I have a fondness for bands who shared their heyday with my own. Having rattled out a few of their classics during my gigging days as a bass player, one of those bands is the cult Canvey Island R&B band Dr Feelgood. I remember the glory days with Wilko Johnson, Lee Brilleaux, The Big Figure and Sparko when they were dubbed as ‘The World’s best local pub-rock band’.

As part of the official photography team for the Montrose Music Festival, I was booked to cover their gig at Montrose Town Hall.

This was an ‘out of season’ gig for the festival; the annual event will take place over the weekend of 28/29th May, in 17 indoor licensed premises.
100 + gigs with a mixture of over 60 rock, indie, blues and Celtic/folk artists on offer; well worth considering if you fancy a weekend away in Scotland.

I was curious as to whether the Feelgoods could still pull it off, considering there are none of the original members left. Wilko left in 1973, and the band, who have endured so many line-up changes lived up to their ethos of ‘Right lads, let’s get on with it’ and bounced back with replacement guitarist John "Gypie" Mayo to deliver the charting hit ‘Milk and Alcohol’. The band continued to be blighted by line up changes, culminating in the tragic demise of original vocalist Lee Brilleaux in 1994. It was Lee’s wish that the band should continue after his death, and he was replaced by Pete Gage, who in turn was replaced in 1999 by current frontman Robert Kane, following a five year stint fronting The Animals.

Many will say that Dr Feelgood couldn’t possibly continue without Lee Brilleaux. We have seen this scenario many times before:  Queen without Freddie -  Sham 69 without Pursey -  Thin Lizzy without Phil -  AC/DC without Bon . . . all have carried on with varying degrees of success. Make no mistake, the current incarnation of Dr Feelgood is not a pseudo-tribute band living off the back of the name; it is a continuation.  Drummer Kevin Morris and bassist Phil Mitchell played alongside Lee Brilleaux since 1983 and guitarist Steve Walwyn since 1989. They were Lee’s mates, not some theatre circuit band that have bought the name. Steve Walwyn is not a Wilko Johnson copycat; he has his own style, but one that slots in to the Dr Feelgood sound. Robert Kane gives 110% and works his ass off on stage. The band members have been around the block a few times and have honed their stage craft, delivering a very watchable show indeed. That does not mean that the music itself is diminished in any way, they are all seasoned, professional musicians.

Dr Feelgood walked on to the stage at Montrose Town Hall and opened with ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ from their 2000 album ‘Chess Masters’, followed by the classics ‘Roxette’ and ‘She Does It Right’ from their first album, ‘Down by the Jetty’. The energetic set worked its way through hits from the albums ‘Malpractice’, ‘Be Seeing You’ and ‘Private Practice’ – 1975, 1977 and 1978 respectively. Early on in the set, Steve Walwyn was blighted by sound problems (Angus Council, you seriously need to sort the crummy ancient electrics in this building) which also severely disrupted the set of The Fortunate Sons, their support band.Robert Kane seamlessly stepped in and covered for Steve with impromptu harmonica solos and banter until the guitar amplification glitch was resolved. This was soon forgotten by the 400+ audience as Kane worked the stage and the audience like a man possessed alongside Steve Walwyn’s stage-edge peetering, dropping to his knees and teaming up with Phil Mitchell during his guitar solos.

The set concluded as it started, with a track from the ‘Chess Masters’ album called ‘Gimme One More Shot’. If it is Wilko Johnson darting about the stage with his trademark manic stare and unique, choppy guitar style coming at you like a machine gun you yearn for, catch him on tour with his own band; The Feelgoods have carried on without him for nearly 30 years. Lee Brilleaux is sadly no longer with us, but I’m sure he will be watching over his mates (ironically with the longest period of line-up stability in their history) and offering the blessing: ‘Get on with it lads.’


Set list:

Hoochie Coochie Man
She Does It Right
That’s It I Quit
Who Do You Love
He’s A Wind Up
Milk & Alcohol
Rolling & Tumbling
Back In The Night
Down By The Jetty Blues
I Can Tell
Going Back Home
Down At The Doctors
Gimme One More Shot

Review & photos by Steve perks -