They came from near and far to pay tribute to a legend of British rhythm and blues, and didn’t go home disappointed.
Wilko Johnson, diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months ago, has rejected a debilitating course of chemotherapy to go on the road for a short farewell tour, and last night he arrived in Bilston to be greeted by a packed house of hundreds at the Robin 2 in Bilston.
Some, like Dominic Horton, aged 41, from Halesowen, was seeing Wilko for the first time.
He said: “I paid £41 for the ticket on eBay, but the money went to charity and it was worth it to see him. There’s always been reasons to miss him in the past but I just thought, it’s now or never.”
Ray Gill, 54, who travelled up from Leamington Spa with his wife Sue, 44, had seen Wilko on numerous occasions and even bumped into him for a chat at an M5 service station. He said:
“He was a lovely man. I first saw him at Birmingham Town Hall in 1975.
“I had to come and see him, even though it cost me £205 for the two tickets.”
He was one of many who paid many times the tickets’ face value to attend the gig after touts bought scores online when they went on sale.
And Wilko Johnson seemed determined to give people their money’s worth. There was no sign of his health troubles as he blasted through a high energy set, pausing just once for a mouthful of water in the hour and 15 minutes he was on stage.
He served up a string of favourites, including Down By the Jetty, Roxette, Paradise, Sneakin’ Suspicion, Back In The Night and She Does It Right, many from his time with legendary pub-rockers Dr Feelgood, delivering with his trademark machine-gun guitar-playing as he stalked the stage with his mock-psychotic stare.
The crowd loved every minute, singing along with every song.
Andy Nixon, 55, from Hagley, said: “I just had to be here. I saw him with Dr Feelgood in ‘75 and’ 76. It was after I saw Wilko I bought by first Telecaster guitar – it’s a bit battered now but I’ve still got it.”
But the emotion of the night, never far from the surface, hit a peak as he played the encore, a cover of Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny, waving goodbye to the crowd as they waved back.
And then he was gone, as the crowd chanted: “Thank you, Wilko”.