Mike Sanchez/Huntingdon Hall, Worcester

FORMER Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant is rock royalty in this neck of the Worcestershire woods, so his guest spot with the Sanchez band provided an early Christmas present for the fans.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, it would seem that old rockers never die, they just fade away singing rhythm and blues classics.

Plant’s still got it to some extent, although the voice can no longer hit the Howling Wolf roar on How Many More Years or sink into the Pomus-Shuman despair of Mess of Blues.

But as you would expect, the crowd went wild, despite the performance being no more riveting than what you might encounter at an open mike night down at the Rat and Ferret.

The Sanchez band took a little time to warm up, rushing with indecent haste through Red Hot Mama, Hurtin’ Inside and Brook Benton’s Kiddio as if they all had trains to catch.

Nevertheless, the band really started to cook after the interval, with back-to-back versions of Mose Allison’s Parchman Farm, Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man and the evergreen Boom Boom, John Lee Hooker’s great bequest to a thousand and one British beat groups of the 1960s.

Bewdley-born Mike Sanchez is undeniably Britain’s greatest exponent of early rock ‘n’ roll, a tireless performer with a genuine and convincing feel for the music.

Yet as is the case with so many artistic endeavours, he has never received the acclaim such as that showered on lesser players such as Jools Holland, an injustice that only really becomes apparent when you see Sanchez in action.

Like a man possessed, he immerses himself in the genre, wearing his heart on a sweat-drenched sleeve, and reaching into the depths of his soul to reincarnate those Deep South rockers and blues shouters who long ago refashioned the template of popular music.

The Mike Sanchez Christmas concert is a celebration of what rock used to be, rough edges and all… and long may it continue.

John Phillpott