The London Bluesfest is a tradition in the city of London, Ontario. It features lineups of the classic rock and blues variety and holds Canadian content in high regard. This year was no different. The Thursday night was graced with headlining Saskatchewan band, The Sheepdogs, followed by Foghat the next day, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, as well as Colin James on Saturday, and Sunday with Blue Oyster Cult to end the festival with a bang. The Friday night lineup of the London Bluesfest opened with Earl and the Agitators, a supergroup venture of Roger Earl's of Foghat, and Scott Holt. The story goes that Scott Holt was featured on Foghat’s 2016 album, “Under the Influence”, by way of Holt, and Earl in a writing and performing partnership. They were having such a good time writing that they kept going and ended up with a surplus of songs that were not to go on the album, hence they formed Earl and The Agitators as a side project to continue their song development. They spark with a bluesy overtone but are akin to alternative as well. They have a wholeness in their tone and their punching riffs are reminiscent of old time classic rock. Scott Holt is featured in this act in his own right. He is a guitarist and longtime performer. He is a friend of Buddy Guy's for good reason. He can really shred! Earl and the Agitators are a self-certified party band here for a good time and to shake up the crowd. They performed classics like "Shaky Ground" with a twist of their own. Their rendition of "Wild Horses" was riveting in its fullness as they built up the slower song with booming percussion and trembling guitar solos.
Savoy Brown was the next up in the lineup. They are seasoned professionals in their genre. They've been around since 1965, and have been touring ever since. The constant in the band has been singer/guitarist Kim Simmonds with a rotating list of bandmates. He stated that he "started the band when he was 17." Their tunes are essentially standard 12 bar blues and a dark toned droll. They are part of the late 60s blues rock movement, which is essentially Englishmen inspired by blues artists of the Southern United States. This movement informed a lot of the evolution of rock and roll. They performed "Livin on a Bayou" which is an example of a stylistically interpreted song of southern blues idealism. Their set was a traditional blues jam from the era they hailed. Roger Earl joined them onstage for a song as an echo of the past of where Foghat started. Savoy Brown did covers like “I Ain't Superstitious” with their own flare. The band, especially Kim Simmonds, performs with energy and vigor. They have the oomf factor after 53 years in the business.
Foghat was the headliner of the evening. They began their set with tunes from Under the Influence which came out in 2015. Their sound is true to the blues/boogie/country twang essence they've always perpetuated. Much like Savoy Brown they perform with youthful energy and embody enjoyment when they play. Their live concerts are what perpetuated their career in that they pride themselves on being great live. Their album that went platinum was Foghat Live in 1976 for that very reason. It is essentially guaranteed that every concert will be an exuberant amount of fun and groove. They played originals as well as blues covers such as Muddy Waters’ "I Just Wanna Make Love to You". As to be expected the songs that got the crowd wild were "Fool for the City" and the long anticipated "Slow Ride" in which you could feel the crowd of Londoners time-travelling to their debauched youth. It has long been an anthem of teen rebellion as the songs, especially “Slow Ride” have been saturated in pop culture as “70s stoner” archetypal tunes. Foghat is far from the original lineup, with only Roger Earl left of it. Despite this it is important to remember that the current lineup of the band has been touring, recording, and performing these songs for over 20 years, and are certainly seasoned professionals at these tunes. Overall, their show was effortlessly fun, and had the crowd wild with the good time nostalgia of their youth. They were musically solid with no note out of place. They are professionals with no inkling of wanting to stop anytime soon.
The Friday of the London Bluesfest ended with a bang, and had auras of nostalgia with a reunion of longtime friends. It was definitely a show to be left with good vibes.