Baby Lemonade, from Los Angeles, have been playing the songs of Love for 30 years – seven of those with the band’s legendary frontman Arthur Lee, until his death in 2006. They are a great garage/psych act in their own right: teenage friends who dreamt of changing the world with music, much like Lee and guitarist/songwriter Johnny Echols did themselves with Love.
On this tour, Baby Lemonade are billed as ‘The Love Band featuring Johnny Echols’, and play a set primarily drawn from Love’s first three LPs: their self-titled 1966 debut, its successor Da Capo, and their best known album Forever Changes. Echols may not be a household name on a par with indie bottom-waver Jarvis Cocker from Pulp – also playing Cardiff tonight – but those who know, know, and the venue tonight is packed.
The Earl Haig Club in Whitchurch (a much-overlooked gem in the Cardiff music scene) is the perfect place to watch this kind of show, hosted by Welsh music royalty Alan Jones. Support tonight comes from DJ Liam Curtin, who always knows how to warm up a crowd, digging deep in his crates for the noisiest, fuzziest psychedelic vinyl.
The headliners, meanwhile, have every right to be arrogant and muso, playing such revered music, but from the second they step onstage, they are warm, funny, inclusive and appreciative – just like you hope a band called Love would be. As expected, it’s the selections from Forever Changes that really get the crowd singing. Now considered one of the greatest albums of all time, it’s great to see its impact still being felt with teenagers dancing at the front of the stage – something pointed out by frontman Rusty Squeezebox.
Listening to Johnny’s effortless guitar work, it’s easy to see why Hendrix, Billy Preston and Miles Davis (to name just a few) sought him out to work with. Psychedelic masterpiece Alone Again Or and protopunk anthem 7×7 Is close the show, and in this reviewer’s humble opinion it would be hard to find two better songs from the 1960s.
A brilliant gig, and a fitting tribute to one of music’s true legends, Arthur Lee. Love is all you need.
The Love Band featuring Johnny Echols, The Earl Haig Memorial Club, Cardiff, Wed 12 July
words BEN POTTER photos CHARLOTTE LITTLE