REVIEW: Paul Rodgers and the Deborah Bonham Band charity gig, The Venue, Chichester.

What have we done to deserve this? We are being spoilt.

For the third year running, the great Paul Rodgers delivered surely Chichester’s gig of the year with a mesmerising performance which brought the house down.

The night, once again in aid of animal charities, this time including Mount Noddy and the Cat and Rabbit Rescue Centre, will live long in memory.

Rodgers has a terrific ease on stage, just as you’d expect after all these years, but what caps it, of course, is that voice – arguably one of the greatest that rock and blues have ever produced.

And on this showing, Rodgers is better than ever with a glorious stroll through Free classics and a couple of delightful rarities.

How lovely it was to hear Remember among such classics as Fire and Water, My Brother Jake, Mr Big and The Hunter.

Sharing the bill was Chichester’s own Deborah Bonham with her band, opening with a blistering set with plenty of tasters from her forthcoming Spirit album.

Led Zep drummer John’s kid sister was on superb form, matched every step of the way by her band in a gusty session full of raw power and emotion. Spirit is going to be quite some album; great too to hear a few reminders of Duchess, her most recent recording.

But then Deborah ramped it all up nicely with a fantastic final flourish – an inspired rendition of Stay With Me Baby, followed by Rock And Roll from her big bro’s band.

“Top that!” she seemed to be saying to Rodgers who promptly did so, hitting the ground running with Wishing Well.

Debbie’s band became Rodgers’ band for the night, and they delivered a remarkable performance, the perfect platform from which Rodgers soared.

It’s difficult to think of anyone who better conveys the sheer joy of being on stage than Paul or indeed of anyone who so quickly and instinctively builds his rapport with his audience: his gift is to make you feel he is singing just for you.

There was a genuine sense of privilege in the room on Saturday night; a master was among us; and he showed himself absolutely at the top of his game.

Phil Hewitt