Before any leader goes to war, they first call upon the services of their Commander-in-Chief. And so it is when musical big hitters such as Macca, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler or Nick Lowe embark on a world tour - they all hit Watkins on their speed dial: Geraint Watkins - singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and one time Balham Alligator. Going on the road without Watkins would be like taking a knife to a gun fight; there really isn't a better piano or accordion player on the live circuit.
I bumped into Watkins the other day: he was trying to locate the stage door at the Harrogate Theatre - he was playing with Nick Lowe as part of The Old Magic tour. Dressed like he'd come to read the meter, he was running late: 'Sound check's at 5 o'clock' he said in his dulcet welsh tones 'and I can't find the way in.' We walked around the back of the venue and stumbled upon (aptly) the tradesman's entrance - through which he went in search of Basher.
Three hours later, show-time, and you wouldn't have recognised him; suited and booted and he'd put a comb through his hair. These days not only is Watkins part of Nick Lowe's crack house band, but he also opens for him. A thirty minute master class in everything from stride and boogie woogie to good old fashioned rock 'n' roll: Mystery Train never sounded so urgent - a runaway train, if you will. Other prime cuts included Soldier Of Love, Chagrin and Unto You - the latter two reflecting Watkins' French and Cajun influences.
With just enough time to down a beer and whisky chaser, he's back on stage for the main event. Nick Lowe needs no introduction on this humble blog. Suffice it to say he rattled through songs new and old with his trademark self deprecating inter-song banter. The set is seamless; material off the new long player - Stoplight Roses, House For Sale and 'Til The Real Thing Comes Along mesh perfectly with Heart, Without Love, I Live On A Battlefield et al.
By the time of the second encore, Watkins takes centre stage again; this time with Lowe backing him. Only A Rose would be the sort of tune Sinatra would cover if he was still with us. Yes, it really is that good.