Done Somebody Wrong
Leave My Blues at Home
Come and Go Blues
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl > Commit a Crime > Schoolgirl (reprise) (Jimmy Hall)
She Caught the Katy (Jimmy Hall)
Black Hearted Woman
Dark End of the Street
Needle and the Damage Done
Down Along the Cove
Elizabeth Reed > drums> Liz Reed
The penultimate (that means second-to-last) night of the run… I always find myself waiting a long time after the shows end to write the final reviews, because I’ve just been burning the candle at three ends for two or more weeks and its time to get back to work and life (and, in this case, to go to Bogota.)
I thought the first set of this show was totally killer diller, and I even turned to my friend Bill at half time and said, “I could go home now happy.” The second set was a bit… anti-climactic. maybe because Gregg had to split a third in due to his slipped disc, maybe because the first set was such a peak…
It’s the last Saturday night of the run and the electricity in the air is palpable. The band rolls right off into “Done Somebody Wrong” sans the intro shuffle, swinging as first Warren, then Derek introduce themselves. Oteil rocks like he’s got the boogie woogie flu. A solid start. Maybe it’s where I’m sitting tonight (back third of the orchestra, left side) but I can really hear the B3 on “Leave My Blues at Home.” It is an especially slippery version, with an especially satisfying rendition of the two-man guitar fire hose weave that has you bending to and fro at the waist… just like Oteil is.
“Come and Go Blues” is one of my favorite Derek vehicles; he lays out sweet lines between the verses, but on the end he soars and swoops with extra mustard (brown mustard to be precise.) Then Marc goes to town with the Santana vibe, and Jaimoe and Butch join in, as “Egypt” unfolds. Derek tickles the inside of your head, then blows it up… the band hits a wall, stops on a dime, Derek plays blue lines over calm jazzy space. Then Warren takes the band through some epic piece he’s writing on the fly. Warren and Oteil are drawn together into a vortex, attracting particles… Oteil thumps out a lick that heralds the song’s theme, and a sweet return. A casually stellar version.
On “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” Warren stings as the band grinds out the greasy riff. After the verse Warren goes all blooz, equal parts Howlin’ Wolf (i.e. Hubert Sumlin) and Vanilla Fudge. Derek goes freight train, Warren shovels coal, Derek drives faster and faster, Oteil bumps it back. Warren blazes hard on the outro, as Bruce Katz takes a seat on the right side of the stage on keys; Katz takes a run, Jimmy Hall wanders out and starts blowing harp, and they’ve seamlessly segued into “Commit a Crime,” another chestnut form the Howlin’ Wolf catalog. Katz dirties it up, then Hall, all on top of the same single chord… then just as seamlessly back into “Schoolgirl,” Warren’s vocals and Hall’s harp bringing it home.
Hall introduces “I Caught the Katy,” which he sings, as “a song about a mule.” It is good time party music that makes me wish I was drunk. Katz is all honky tonk behind Hall’s vocals. Then “Dreams,” which always seems epic on those rare occasions when they bust it out in the first set. Gregg misses a vocal cue early, Warren enters sublime, then it’s a full, throbbing sinewy massage. Derek soar into space, then makes a beeline for the song; his solo elicits several ovations.
The place is Saturday night nuts as the song ends, a great way to close the set– but they aren’t finished; apparently there’s just time to squeeze in a 16-minute blast of “Black Hearted Woman.” After the first solo break, Gregg takes three tries before coming in to sing at the right spot (I don’t think of it at the time, but maybe he’s hurting…) Derek hangs a note as the frenetic 1-2-3, 1-2-3 coda goes all sparse. Warren plays over the top, all rhythm, no melody. Then he throws a switch and he’s pulling a cart, tugging the band into a swirling, insistent– but not rude– jam. Then softer, till they almost grind to a halt… Derek flits and darts, then smacks his strings, slams them, Warren hits the riff that pulls everyone back into the coda. Whew!
You can imagine, after all that, how the second set might have been, as I say, anti-climactic. Although we’ve already climaxed about a dozen times, so really, who’s counting…
The acoustic set. “Old Friend” with Derek and Warren is always nice. “Dark End of the Street” features some beautiful round Derek lines, and lovely Gregg/Warren harmonies. And as more than one person has commented to me, Gregg has a right to sing “Needle and the Damage Done”; usually you look to Warren to cover the Neil Young songs, but Gregg does this one beautifully. Then “Melissa,” sort of one foot in the acoustic set, one in electric.
Scott Sharrard joins on guitar, and John Popper on harp, for “Down Along the Cove.” Popper sings, Sharrard takes the first solo spot, then Derek, Sharrard, Popper on harp, Warren… nice jaunty blues. Then Sharrard goes off, and Rob Barraco is on keys right side; Barraco rains down sunshine, bringing the band into “Franklin’s Tower.” Barraco enters slow, then lays out the Snoopy happy dance, then Barraco and Oteil make a sunshine sandwich. Vocals again, then the guitars step forward; Derek goes all “Blue Sky,” stills, Oteil gives a jazzy reinterpretation.
It’s not uncommon for Gregg to leave the stage if another keyboard player sits in, but surprisingly as the band weaves it’s way into “Elizabeth Reed” Barraco is still out, and Gregg is not… Barraco runs it down, Derek lays out shiny wavy tin sheets, then the riff, then he fills the room with dreamy pulsating tones. He shoots like a rocket, then Barraco goes… all solos are uniformly non-melodic… Warren and Barraco do the two-man hot potato, giving way to drums… on the back end Alvaro Benavides joins Oteil for a 2-man bass solo, Oteil scatting and playing, Benavides laying down the bottom. Then full band return, more “Les Brers” than Liz, the engine room sear, tossing in Liz Reed references, then Warren hits a minor chord and they’re back into the “Elizabeth Reed” close.
Gregg still not back, they go into a “Southbound” encore, Warren handling the vocals; Barraco still on, Hall back, and James “Little Jaimoe” Van der Bogert is on drums. The usual Saturday night sit-in bake-off, round and round and round.
Solid show. Questions in the air about Gregg; as I say, killer first set is the highlight.