SUPER CHIKAN with HENRY GRAY & THE CATS and BOBBY DEAN BLACKBURN at Harbourfront's Norigen Stage, July 7. Tickets: free. Attendance: 1,500. Rating: NNN
after crowd-pleasing sets from Toronto R&B organ grinder Bobby Dean Blackburn and Howlin' Wolf piano man Henry Gray, there was some doubt whether James "Super Chikan" Johnson had the huevos to close the show. The harmonica blowdown that Gray staged between his bassist, Andy Cornett, and harp honker Brian "BB" Bruce as a finale brought the reserved Harbourfront gathering to their feet whooping like youngsters.
It's scary to imagine what kind of pandemonium might've broken out had a serious harmonica blower joined the action.
In any case, Super Chikan found himself in the unenviable position of following a standing ovation, and coming out plucking Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo licks on a heavy-metalish BC Rich guitar wasn't going to get him far -- clucking and scratching or not.
With daughter Jameisa Turner holding down the chugging Mississippi roadhouse rhythm alongside bassist Andrew "Shine" Turner, Super Chikan didn't flinch when a few people got up to leave. He just kept on stroking.
Things began to change when he started growling like the late John Lee Hooker on a cover of Boom Boom, but it was the yodelling that finally put him over. A follow-up rump-shaking display proved to be a perfectly plotted one-two punch. Super Chikan could do no wrong, "adulterated" nursery rhymes and all.