"For the second time in 2017, Terry Slesser brought his band of brothers to Glasgow, celebrating the career and music of his friend and Back Street Crawler collaborator, Paul Kossoff. The week before, Sless said, "Playing Scotland and especially Glasgow is very much like playing Newcastle, where the audiences are knowledgeable and not afraid to show their feelings towards bands that they like, and in Koss's case, have great affection for".

This time around, the impressive converted church, Cottiers Theatre was the venue, just a couple of Simon Kirke drumstick throws along Great Western Road from February’s venue, Webster’s Theatre. It was a Thursday night rather than a Saturday this time, so the crowd was more sparse, although no less appreciative of a set that differed significantly from February’s Free-dominated show. Having seen the passion with which they set about Free’s catalogue in February, this change in emphasis had nothing to do with the comment made by Sless about his first bands, “We thought we’d play some Free songs, as they sounded pretty simple, but they were so difficult that we played ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ instead”.

Clive Edwards, Rick Hunt and John Buckton, all superbly talented and drilled, still formed the core of Sless’s accompanists, but with the addition of keyboardist Dave Chapman, the set’s contents concentrated far more heavily on Koss’s output beyond Free’s seven albums. For the Kossoff connoisseur, this was a rare treat, especially the heavy concentration on Second Street, a hugely-underrated illustration of Back Street Crawler’s abilities as a band as well as the individual talents of the players and songwriters, and a wonderful example of trans-Atlantic collaboration.

Throughout, Sless gave insights to the writing and recording process, told starkly of the difficulties in working with a flawed genius in thrall to powders, pills and potions, and paid deserved tributes to writers Terry Wilson, Rabbit Bundrick and the late Mike Montgomery. As an engaging frontman, the sometimes harrowing tales were told with authority yet with humour and obvious affection. A particular insightful highlight was the tale of how, being tasked to put words to a Rabbit piano riff developed through jamming into a tape-ready backing track, Sless went to his hotel room and wrote ‘Leaves In The Wind’ straight to the page, “Like writing a letter...it was only later that I realised it was about Koss”.

And although The Band Plays On IS all about Koss, it’s also a tribute that displays the supreme skills of five men (and the delightful Elaine Jackson who added lovely gospel harmonies to ‘Blue Soul’) whose respect for the tousle-haired little fellow in the waistcoat ensures that his soulful legend lives on."

Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow
7th September 2017


" As we mourned Paul Kossoff's death 41 years ago, and then Andy Fraser's passing almost exactly 39 years later, some of our sadness was in realising that the band could no longer get back together.

Yet, with the raw edge of hurt now tempered by time and acceptance, and with Free and Back Street Crawler’s recorded music still available to us, there comes a time when we can celebrate it all again.

Terry Slesser, Koss's friend and Back Street Crawler frontman, has been touring the UK celebrating the genius of Koss, his own heartfelt affection for the man obvious.

But this is no ordinary tribute act content to re-hash past glories. Slesser punctuates the stirring set with insightful and poignant anecdotes, mainly about Koss, but based on his relationship with all who were involved in both bands. Who knew that ‘Molten Gold’, the only song that Koss wrote fully on his own, was about the precociously-talented hands of Andy Fraser? And did Rabbit really believe he’d joined The Hollies when he asked Pete Townshend, “When are we going to play ‘Bus Stop’?”

More than once, Sless expressed his astonishment at the ages of the members of Free, their confidence whilst still teenagers, or a little older, to turn out those first four inspiring albums, and of the camaraderie they enjoyed.

With Clive Edwards (UFO, Wild Horses, Tottenham fan) energetically replicating Simon Kirke's powerful anchoring beats and Tony Braunagel's Texas rhythms, the foundations are solid. He declared that playing the tribute set was “a labour of love”.
Kirke and Fraser were never an orthodox rhythm section. Working out Andy's complex but custom-fitted bass parts, never mind playing them and locking in with the drummer, could be a lifetime's work on its own. Bassman Rick Hunt, the busiest man in Glasgow's delightful Websters Theatre, handled it superbly, nailing those daunting, shifting Fraser rhythmic patterns and even adding Andy-type licks to Tetsu’s and Terry Wilson’s simpler, but no less effective lines.

John Buckton, dapper in a trademark Koss pin-striped waistcoat, and with familiar, tumbling blond locks, has perfected Paul’s Les Paul/Gibson tone, the unusual approach to chording, the ability to make each note and every space count, and of course, Koss’s signature vibrato. It’s little wonder that Simon Kirke has said of Buckton, "If Free were to reform John would be my first choice as guitarist".

Sless himself, of course, was in superb voice, but his own voice. The Back Street Crawler numbers sounded, as they always did, tailor-made for him. Admirably, these were the very tones he deployed to sing the considerable number of Free songs on the set list, his dynamics and phrasing worthy of the timeless material, usually difficult to associate with anyone but Paul Rodgers.

This was a respectful, affectionate show, delivered passionately by true believers. There may even have been the occasional tear in audience members’ eyes. It is definitely worth re-visiting in keeping Paul Kossoff’s memory alive. "

Websters Theatre, Glasgow
18th February 2017


" Terry Slesser has put together a fine ensemble of high-calibre musicians to pay tribute to the legendary Free guitarist Paul Kossoff who tragically passed away on a flight from Los Angeles to New York in 1976 at the tender age of 25 and it's due to Terry's efforts that Kossoff's music lives on and remains as valid today as it ever was.

Billed as Kossoff - The Band Plays On, this is not your regular 'tribute' act as Terry was vocalist in Kossoff's post-Free outfit Back Street Crawler for their entire lifespan. Koss had taken that ill-fated flight to deliver the master tapes for Back Street Crawler's second album, '2nd Street', while Terry stayed on in LA and 'Blue Soul' is the only track aired from that opus tonight and it's one of the standout songs of the whole evening.

From Back Street Crawler's 1975 debut album, 'Stealing My Way', 'Train Song' and title track 'The Band Plays On' are all given a welcome workout and all shine and to add some perspective to that, these choice cuts were aired alongside Free and Bad Company classics such as 'The Stealer', 'Wishing Well', 'The Hunter' and 'All Right Now', all of which were saved until the end.

Guitarist John Buckton has them all down to an absolute tee and that's no huge surpise when you consider that Free drummer Simon Kirke said: "If Free were to reform, John would be my first choice as guitarist."

MetalTalk spoke to Simon recently on the eve of the release of his new album and you can see what 'All Because Of You' is all about, as well as enjoying the video interview right here. Simon tells a tremendous anecdote involving Paul Kossoff at the fifteen minute mark.

But back to John Buckton and he's captured the soul and rawness of Koss' playing and a large part of that is that 'less is more', or to quote great British bluesman Alexis Korner, "Kossoff knew not to play too many notes and knew how to use silence". Koss had his own unique and standout style and it lives on in John Buckton's fretboard.

Also included in the line-up are former UFO, Wild Horses, Uli Jon Roth and Pat Travers drummer Clive Edwards who puts in a sterling and flawless performance, as does highly respected keyboard player Mark Taylor who has shared stages with Elton John, Simple Minds and The Alarm.

Clive's cousin is Status Quo bass player John 'Rhino' Edwards who guested on two Free classics in the second set, 'I'm A Mover' and 'Mr Big'. Rhino was clearly having a ball as the two Edwards' whipped up a storm while frontman Terry knows how to captivate an audience and he's got some seriously entertaining anecdotes in his armoury which are all delivered with style and panache.

Paul Kossoff was revered by those who knew him and by fans alike and his music shone through tonight, along with his personality, all brought to life on a night of sheer quality after England had been battered by extreme weather throughout the day. Fears that numbers would be down due to Storm Doris were soon swept away and the band proceeded to create their own hurricane.

Yes indeed, the band plays on, hopefully in America later in the year as the States needs to see this tremendous and heartwarming act. MetalTalk will be talking with Terry Slesser in the coming days so watch out for that because his is a story you will be captivated by. "

The Half Moon, Putney, London
23rd February 2017

MetalTalk.net by Steve Göldby
photo: Megumi Manzaki