If the reaction to Roy Clark's only British concert at Portsmouth Guildhall was anything to go by, then his battle for recognition this side of the Atlantic might be almost over. The promoters had barely three weeks in which to sell the show, but by keeping the ticket prices reasonable, they attracted a good crowd, many of whom I guess had never seen Clark before. Perhaps in these hard times a lesson might have been learned: keep the prices within easy reach of most people's pockets and you'll attract the curious punter as well as the dedicated country fan.
Clark was supported by three British acts, each complementing the other, and the final result was a good country package. Young Linda Page opened the show, and she sang clearly and honestly. If she can just concentrate on a little more stage presence, she could develop into a major name on the local scene.
Kelvin Henderson took the stage next, and though I was a little apprehensive about him working without a band, he proved to be ten times better as a solo. He opened with Mel McDaniel's Goodbye Marie, his impressive vocal making quite an impact. Ed Bruce's The Littlest Cowboy and Bob McDill's Louisiana Saturday Night were also well handled. Kelvin said little and sang strongly, and with his quality of voice he needed to do little more.
American Expression, who now want to be known simply as Expression, closed the first half colourfully. They showed that they are more than just a band built around an image. Their material ranged effortlessly from old country themes like an infectious Buck Owens medley, through to some recent Bobby Bare songs picked up from the tour they did with the American singer last year. Their western-swing medley proved that when they open up and let loose with fiddles, the Expression band can be really simulating.
Backed by a professional eight-piece band, Roy Clark enthralled the enthusiastic crowd with classic tunes like Yesterday When I Was Young and Somewhere My Love. There was some good-humoured banter between Clark and Jimmy Henley, his young banjo protege, especially during Duelling Banjos. Despite his slight build, Clark's stage presence is assured and friendly. Fancy, the trio of young ladies, melded beautifully with Clark's limited vocal range, while adding strength to the ensemble sound.
From this veteran entertainer you get a little bit of everything: comedy, vocals, instrumental virtuosity that takes in banjo, fiddle and guitar, and most important, entertainment. It was a memorable concert by a performer of real stature, and if Clark can build up a continuity of visits to Britain, he could have a healthy following.