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Dion alone: Rock ’n’ roll legend returns

Dion_60s_2 Last night, in a scrappy venue at the north end of London’s Oxford Street, Robert Plant, Bobby Gillespie and The Coral crowded in with 200 young hipsters and old rockers to witness a very special gig, the return of doo-wop, blues and rock’n’roll legend Dion Di Mucci to UK shores. Andrew Male was down the front.

Click MORE for the full MOJO report. 

The remarkably well preserved 68 year old, sitting in the half-light gloom of London’s least assuming venue – the Metro on Oxford Street – is armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a borrowed capo, and, despite having forty years of rock’n’roll history to draw on, Dion Di Mucci is visibly nervous tonight, asking members of the audience whether he’s doing OK, and apologising for the occasional detour into stories about Neil Sedaka, John Lennon and Fats Domino.

The blues is where he feels safe these days; he grew up on them, they informed such early, legendary hits as The Wanderer and Runaround  Sue, and that Jimmy Reed playing style is all over his most recent albums, Bronx In Blue and Son Of Skip James. So we go with him for this raw, cathartic session especially because he’s searching for the self same far-down blues sound he captured on those mid 60s Columbia sessions,  when he was in the pits of heroin despair. But it’s when that Neil Sedaka anecdote morphs into a gloriously off-the-cuff rendition of Calendar Girl that the gig assumes the shape of greatness. So even if his intro to Abraham, Martin & John bigs up the troops in Iraq, the delivered version is heartfelt, nuanced and assured. However, proceedings are taken to another level when Di Mucci introduces Ace Records’ own UK doo-wop trio, the Roomates, who provide sweet tri-part harmonies on easy rollin’ versions of Ruby Baby, The Wanderer and Runaround Sue, that find a certain Mr. Gillespie jigging wildly in the wings.

Suddenly there come the audience shouts for such much-loved hipster Dion landmarks as Born to Cry, Lovers Who Wander and Daddy Rollin’. By the end of the gig it’s even possible that the audience have convinced Dion Di Mucci how loved his is today. But if anyone was in doubt there was the after-show party where James and Ian Skelly of The Coral gently interrogated the singer into the night about mid '70s Dion tracks that even the man himself has forgotten all about. If he ever decides to pick up his guitar and embark upon a full Storytellers–style career overview we’ll see you there at the front of the stage.

A big-band Runaround Sue that keeps threatening to break it's bonds and get all nasty.

A scopitone film of Ruby Baby that kinda captures Dion's early 60s off-the-planet  altered state.

And here's what hippie America did to rock'n'roll: oh dear, it's Sha Na Na.

And finally...Dion's cleaned-up 1968 comeback, Abraham, Martin And John. Listen to the audience gasp when the song is announced and try to ignore the unnecessary backing vox. Click here to view.

Posted by Ross_Bennett at 03:36PM | Categories: Live