This is a Crackerjack review of Peter Green and Friends.

Crackerjack rating: 8 / 10. September 3, 2009

You can forget Eric Clapton, many guitarist connoisseurs will tell you that the only musician who could hold a candle to Jimi Hendrix was Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green.

But like many before him and many after, Green's rock'n'roll lifestyle - in particular his use of LSD - was to scar him permanently.

He's struggled with mental health problems for the best part of 40 years after, in his words, taking an acid trip where he "never came back."

Notwithstanding the odd track here and there, Green was almost lost to us for 25 years or so.

Let's focus on the positives here though, as for once this is one of those stories with a happy ending.

After tentatively stepping back on stage a decade ago with his Splinter Group and having relearned how to play his instrument almost from scratch, Green has come on in leaps and bounds.

For this very intimate show at the rammed Moles Club, he ran through a whole host of blues classics as well as some of his self-penned gems.

The "Friends" in question here are a cracking five-piece led by Mike Dodd on vocals and rhythm guitar who essentially runs the show, too. Green hands over the general banter to him, content to sit stage right and let his fingers do the talking instead.

Green does the vast majority of the singing though and his weathered, husky vocals rather suit him as one of the elder statesman of British blues - he sounds a little like a white Louis Armstrong in fact.

They kicked off with a cover of Albert King's The Blues Don't Change and the old Mac gem Long Grey Mare which boasted a slinky sax solo.

Green's vocals were particularly well suited to Willie Dixon's When The Lights Go Out and his solo on Pretty Woman displayed all of the remarkable tone and touch of his heyday.

The band flexed their muscles on an upbeat version of the Rolling Stones' early track Off The Hook while keyboard player Geraint Watkins duetted with Green on a beautifully touching Dark End of the Street.

But it was a double whammy of Green's self-penned classics that stole the show. A rocking version of Oh Well won the biggest cheer of the night followed by a reverential silence the like I've never witnessed before when the crowd realised a neat segue had welcomed in his finest moment, Albatross. It was one of those genuine goosebump-inducing moments.

Another Green classic, the swampy blues of Black Magic Woman, sealed the deal in the encore. And if any thoughts that he was tiring and losing a little focus had started to percolate to the surface, they were banished by a rip-roaring blues instrumental at the close.

To see a genuine legend at such close quarters was a real privilege. The fact that his newly-rejuvenated Green is getting back to his best just made it all the more special.

Steve Harnell