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Green Shows Old Flashes (Hartford Courant)

PETER GREEN SHOWS FLASHES OF OLD STYLE
ROGER CATLIN
Courant Rock Critic

When Peter Green walked away from the blues band he created, Fleetwood Mac, in 1970, he just about vanished.

In one of the great drug-related disappearances from rock, Green surfaced only sporadically in the intervening decades, a supposed casualty from an era of excess.

But he ran into an old friend in Nigel Watson in the mid '90s and was nudged back into music, first with an acoustic approach to Robert Johnson's music, which became the basis for two albums.

Now, at 54, he's fully reacquainted with the electric guitar, and in a remarkable show at the Garde Arts Center in New London Tuesday -- his first Connecticut show in 30 years -- he exhibited flashes of the greatness that got him named, along with Jimi Hendrix and Steve Cropper, one of the top three guitarists of all time by the British music magazine Mojo.

The glum, stout guitarist somewhat resembled Alfred Hitchcock fronting a band. But age works well in blues, where it makes more sense to have him sing Elmore James' ``Hand Me Down My Walking Cane'' now than when he was 20. It's true his voice was not pretty, but it was expressive and you couldn't say it didn't match his raw, honest material.

With the sharp, five-piece Splinter Group, who kept the stage banter going for the largely silent Green, the guitarist was at his best playing blues he was familiar with, particularly songs associated with Freddie King, from his instrumental ``The Stumble'' to the standard ``Goin' Down.''

But it was a delight to hear him play his own fine instrumentals as well, from ``Albatross,'' the double-lead precursor to Southern rock melodicism, and the pretty ``Man of the World.''

The version of his ``Black Magic Woman,'' perhaps his best known song, was not the triumph it could have been (with the musicians pulling it in too many directions, colored by the Santana version). But the rendition of ``Green Manalishi'' was classic.

On the first night of a U.S. tour with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, the only disappointment is that the two grand old men of British blues never shared the stage together. That despite the fact that Green replaced Eric Clapton in the Bluesbreakers so many years ago. Even so, each man played a tune from their time together in their separate sets.

Mayall's blues were hampered by sound woes with his keyboard all night. Worse than sound, though, were the lights, which flashed randomly up and down as if a cat were walking on the board. Mayall, 66, was the only one to request the stage stay bright through his set, ever the one to show his players in the best light.