It is not often that Portsmouth has the honour of witnessing the formation of a supergroup. Last night, The Cellars at Eastney hosted the Hard Travelers’ first ever gig. This supergroup, made up of musical legends Dave Sharp, Henry McCullough, Zoot Money, Gary Fletcher and Colin Allen, have between them a collection of credentials including work with The Alarm, Wings, Bob Dylan and The Animals and, despite the fact that they had only gathered for the first time at 10am the day before, they did not disappoint.
The Hard Travelers’ raison d’etre is to celebrate 40 years of the music of the late Woody Guthrie and to bring the spirit of his music to a new generation. The inspirational Guthrie, who died in October 1967, was known as “The father of American Folk” and “one of the patron saints of American rebelliousness”.
Dave Sharp opened proceedings, impressive on lead vocals, with “Lonesome Day” and, half way through the first song, I realised that something very special was unfolding before my eyes. The onstage chemistry between these five legends was electric and the quality of the music was - at the risk of sounding like an over-enthusiastic teenager - awesome. Every note of these classics, (songs, such as “This Land is Our Land” and “This Train is Bound for Glory”), was delivered with energy and not one syllable was thrown away. And, if you didn’t know a song at its start, you sure knew it like an old friend by the end. Zoot Money on keyboard and bass player Gary Fletcher also took their turn on lead vocals, equally impressive. Colin Allen on drums and Henry McCullough on lead guitar completed the line-up, both also oozing with stage presence and helping create the over all effect that you were witnessing the birth of something incredible - something that truly touched the audience. Sharp and Money took advantage of the intimacy the venue provides and took every opportunity to banter with the crowd, Money making reference to the warmth of The Cellars’ audience that he was experiencing not for the first time. The fun atmosphere onstage was infectious and the band were more than worthy of the standing ovation they received after the encore. This band is bound for glory!
It truly was an historic event and, as if that wasn’t enough, every member of the audience will be treated further. All who attended will receive a free live EP recording of the event.
This addition to an impressive programme of events was billed as “a great honour for The Cellars” and is no less than this remarkable venue deserves.