Playboy Sanchez Takes Centre Stage

After a long wait, Mike Sanchez brought his new band to London.

Mike Sanchez, former front man with The Big Town Playboys, returned to the London stage on Friday 15 December with his new band. After 15 years with The Playboys, a packed 100 Club in London's West End were eager to see and hear his new combo.

Mike Sanchez
Mike Sanchez: Pianist, guitarist, vocalist, showman!

Dressed in a bright red suit, with suitably baggy trousers, the showman made the crowd wait until 9.40pm before making his appearance on stage. Together with a six-piece band that included Slap Happy from King Pleasure and The Biscuit Boys on double bass, and Al Nichols of Blue and Little Harlem on saxophone, the sound showed a departure from the Playboys mix. With another sax, trumpet,  guitar and drums, the line-up had the look of a jump-jive outfit - and that's what it was, with some blues thrown in as well.

From the opening number, Undecided Fool, Sanchez set out his stall for all to hear. Moving between keyboard, guitar and singing duties proved effortless for the man. His ability to hover just above the piano stool as he both played and sang was a wonder to behold!

The first set included Hurtin' Inside (from his new untitled CD), Three Months Three Weeks Three Days and a song about Texas, before Sanchez closed out with a couple of Buddy Holly numbers. Someday and Brown Eyed- Handsome Man had them jigging in the small areas still available for dancing. The latter numbers saw the brass section getting in some bar time as the band onstage continued as a four-piece, with Sanchez on guitar. 

After an inordinately long break, the musicians returned for more. Once again, the sound of blues and jump-jive filled the room, all delivered in a style that had shades of Elvis, Jerry Lee and Chick Berry - not a bad lot of influences to have. Looking For You kicked off the proceedings, and was followed by some Playboy favourites like Glamour Girl, and some originals like Coal Miner and Messed With An Angel from his solo CD Just Can't Afford It. A couple of the numbers were not so much influenced but more like rewrites of Presley's Mystery Train and Little Richard's Lucille.

The rapport established with the crowd held throughout the evening, but was almost strained to breaking point when Sanchez suddenly and inexplicably had a Jim Reeves moment. Onlookers were somewhat stunned as he launched into what was obviously a personal favourite, but was at odds with the mood of the rest of the evening. However, it was a momentary aberration, and he was forgiven by the end of the next number.

Sanchez had played at The Excel Club in East Finchley the previous Sunday, but that was a short solo set with piano. Tonight with his band, he found an audience full of friends and Playboy fans (the band, not the magazine), and was on a winner all the way - Jim Reeves moment excluded. With the departure of Ray Gelato to The States, the return of the showman is indeed a timely one.

For more information on the web you can visit Mike Sanchez and Big Town Playboys. Mike's own site has sound files from his new CD.

2000 Andrew Winton.

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