BB King’s

Candy Dulfer at BB King

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I’ve known for a few weeks that Candy Dulfer would be playing last night at BB King. As much as I like her music, I didn’t purchase tickets in advance for two reasons: I thought we might be up at the house over the weekend and Lois isn’t that big of a Jazz fan (yet).

When we went to see Dave Mason this past Friday at BB King and the show was canceled, we already knew we’d be in town over the weekend (all of this previously reported here and here). I asked Lois how she felt about coming back to see Candy and she was fine with that, so we bought two tickets on Friday.

I own each of Candy’s first two studio CDs, Saxuality (released in 1990) and Sax-a-Go-Go (released in 1993). I got each of them when they first came out, so I’ve been a fan for a very long time. One of the reasons I don’t own more of her stuff, and don’t listen to either of those two CDs all that often, is that in addition to being a brilliant smooth jazz artist (which is my favorite form of jazz), she’s also a world-class funky jazz artist (words and music), which is more of a mix of hip hop and rock.

Even on those early CDs, there’s a mix, and I’m nuts about the smooth jazz pieces, but I found (in the past) the funky stuff a little too repetitive (not bad, just not as creative).

True to form, last night, Candy and band played both smooth jazz and funk. They were literally amazing at both. Seeing the funk done live is dramatically different than listening to it on a CD. It’s fun (ahhhh, perhaps that’s where the term funky comes from) 😉 and more visual when you see them play with the song. For the record, I still much prefer the smooth jazz stuff.

She played a bunch of stuff from her new CD (released in 2007) Candy Store. Late in the show, she started what appeared to be an impromptu discussion with the audience about requests, without actually ever using the word request. Lots of stuff was shouted out, but Candy said that she was surprised not to have heard the “L” song, and the crowd went nuts, knowing she was talking about her early hit Lily Was Here.

She played it right then (how could she not after that reaction?). Here’s a YouTube Video of her playing it with Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) a long time ago. The version on the video is classic smooth jazz. While last night’s version was awesome, it was much more funk/rock, including the lead guitar being hard electric, not the acoustic version played by Dave Stewart in the video.

Her band is amazing.

Regular keyboardist and vocalist, Chance Howard. Actually, Candy’s band had two keyboardists last night, and Chance plays more of a synthesizer (to my ears). The first time he played a solo, it sounded more like a flute than a piano. He sings well, and the two of them harmonize during the show.

Chance Howard

Kirk Johnson is the drummer. He also sings backup vocals (Chance also sings lead). He is incredible! In addition to just keeping a tremendous beat the entire night, with all of the appropriate smooth jazz rolls and symbol play, he took one solo very early on that was stupendous. One thing you can never experience on a CD are the visual tricks which always delight the crowd. I described some pretty incredible ones performed by Kentric Morris, Najee’s drummer in this post.

Kirk did two things (one of which I hadn’t seen before). During his solo, he kept flipping one of the drumsticks in the air, of course never missing a single beat in a fast-paced romp. I’ve seen it before, but it’s cool nonetheless. Then he lifted his right leg up in the air, and put it straight out over the drums, and continued playing at a frantic pace, without missing a beat. The crowd ate it up.

Kevin Walker on bass, was new to the band, only with them for a week! I didn’t know that until the end of the show when Candy mentioned it. It would have been hard to guess, as he was flawless the entire night. She also gave him two solos that rocked the house. He’s fast and interesting. My only complaint about nearly all bass players in these lives shows is that their instrument overwhelms the others. It literally shakes the house on every note in every song (as does the bass drum). Still, he’s amazing.

Kevin Walker

The other keyboard player is Thomas Bank. He’s also excellent, but to be fair, unless he was taking a solo (only two or three last night), he can barely be heard over the rest of the instruments. He had a Macbook Pro sitting next to him, so perhaps I didn’t hear him because he was checking email rather than playing out loud. 😉

Thomas Bank

Finally, the lead guitarist Ulco Bed. He’s excellent as well, playing mellow smooth jazz really well, and then taking some super full-blown rock leads that were awesome.

Ulco Bed and Candy Dulfer

Candy Dulfer was mind-bogglingly good on the sax, but there was no surprise in that. She also sang a bunch more than I expected. The other day I noted that Tim O’Brien played fiddle while singing (solo) and that it looked funny (but sounded great). Candy couldn’t sing and play the sax at the same time, proving that she’s human after all. 😉

Candy Dulfer SingingCandy Dulfer on the Sax

Lois totally disagrees with me, but Candy’s face is a dead ringer for Courtney Thorne-Smith to me. 😉

Toward the end, she played the sax accompanied just by Kirk on the drums. It was long and stunning. She was perfect on the sax, but Kirk lit up the joint. She had her back to the audience facing Kirk the entire time, and the spotlight was on him. It was way more interesting than just a drum solo (even though I’m a sucker for a good drum solo), but there was little doubt that the focus of that long segment was the drums. Perfect!

Kirk Johnson and Candy Dulfer

Kevin’s face reminded me of Michael Jordan. 😉

We had a fantastic time. The only downside of the evening was that the music was deafeningly loud. It was also balanced perfectly, and clean, so it was purely a volume problem, not a distortion one, etc. My ears weren’t really ringing, exactly, but there’s little doubt that there was a real effect.

Last November, we saw Girlyman at the Highline Ballroom. Opening for them was Garrison Starr, a solo performer who also plays too loud (in my opinion). That night, we brought a family as our guests, which included a 4-year-old girl (she loves Girlyman!). The person working the door saw her and offered us a pair of ear plugs, warning us that she might very well need them!

Lois loved the idea, and has since bought a bunch of pairs to take to shows just in case. Last night was the first time she felt the need to use them. Thankfully, she had them. I know (not just because she told me so) 😉 that she would have insisted that we leave if she didn’t have them! She loved the show, but was only able to tolerate it because she had the plugs in the entire night!

She might have needed them no matter where we sat, but last night we sat at the stage. Also, since we were on the far right side we were right in front of a bunch of the speakers and amplifiers, which didn’t help with the volume problem. Here’s a shot of me hugging the stage, looking at Candy play the sax.

Hadar watching Candy Dulfer

As I wrote on Saturday, I started my regular exercise routine this weekend. Yesterday included walking up and down 30 flights of stairs in our building. I prefer the long walks outside, but I didn’t have the time yesterday, and the stairs really cram a lot of sweat and elevated heart rate into a shorter workout.

We walked over the to show, and on the way, Lois made it clear that she would prefer (I’m being polite here) that I not have my usual Lucille (BB King’s version of a chocolate martini), and that I not have fries either. Bummer! I had club soda, and a Caesar Salad with Grilled Shrimp on it. Tasty, but not the same.

There are benefits to eating healthy. The meal cost much less. I had zero gastric distress. The liquor didn’t add to my usual exhaustion (because there was no liquor).

The downside is that I didn’t help prop up the economy, though I over-tipped our excellent waitress, partially out of guilt for what she would have gotten had I been eating my usual there. 😉

We walked home and chatted about the show the entire way. We were both still feeling the energy.

Tonight we’re seeing The Wailin’ Jennys at Joe’s Pub. I have written about them many times in the past, and will most definitely write again tomorrow. You can’t imagine how excited I am to see them at Joe’s!

Finally, as always, here’s a link to the current month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter early and often, and win a signed copy of the new Live CD. It’s an awesome CD, and the contest is for a good cause, creating more awareness for this brilliant group! 🙂

Dave Mason Get Well

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We were headed to see Dave Mason at BB King last night. (No links in this post.) I even Twittered about it, so it had to be official. 😉

We got to BB’s a few minutes after the door was supposed to open, and were quite surprised (pleased?) to see that there was no line outside. We walked straight downstairs, and the place was significantly emptier than we expected (figuring that Dave likely sold out the place).

The poor guy at the door has to tell us that Dave called in sick at 1pm. 🙁

To make it up, they are putting on a free show with a cover band that does lots of Yes stuff (and some other covers I don’t recall). I love Yes, so we figure we’ll stay (I’m also starving and I like the food at BB’s).

Before we go in, I go to the box office and buy tickets to four additional shows that we want to see there (including three nights in a row later in April!). We try to get a refund for the Dave Mason tickets, but can’t, because we bought them through Ticketmaster. Oh well, a small hassle, but not a big deal…

We sit down at a good table, and get ready to order drinks and dinner. Given the chaos of the day, the band was on the stage working on the sound check (obviously, they didn’t have much notice to get there). It was painfully loud. I looked over at Lois and asked if she wanted to leave. There was no hesitation in her response.

It wasn’t a complete loss. While we took the bus over, we walked home (a little exercise never hurt anyone, or at least doesn’t often hurt people) 😉 and we got to pick up tickets (without all of the wonderful convenience charges of Ticketmaster).

We ended up having dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, right across the street from the apartment. Obviously, we had no reservations and the place is almost always packed. We walked in at exactly 6:45pm. The guy told us he could put us in a booth (that easily handles six people), if we promised to be out by 8:30pm. I laughed pretty hard (he knows us, so I wasn’t insulting him). I told him we’d be out by 7:30pm! 😉

They put another couple in the same booth a minute later, but we each had enough privacy. We were out of there at 7:23pm, so we could have taken a little more time. 😉

Awesome food (Seafood Enchiladas for me) and a perfect Frozen Margarita (as always).

All-in-all, a very pleasant evening, though not even close to what we originally expected.

Go with the flow, or as Dave Mason himself says:

Let it go, let it go, let it flow live a river
Let it go, let it go, let it flow through you

🙂

P.S. There seem to be a rash of these cancellations due to illness lately. We had tickets to Dolly Parton at Radio City Music Hall on March 7th, and that tour got canceled. Already rescheduled for May 1, and we’re going (same tickets, same seats). Joan Baez canceled this past Monday from the Paramount Theater (we weren’t going) and has already rescheduled. Allman Brothers Band also canceled their Beacon Theater Dates (we have tickets, and are awaiting announcement of the new dates), and now Dave Mason.

All of you, please, Get Well Soon! 🙂

Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King

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Last night, nine of us went to see Jerry Jeff Walker play at BB King. Keeping with my new tradition, I’ll cover the concert first, and then circle back to tell the story leading up to the show.

We weren’t all that familiar with Jerry Jeff’s repertoire before last night. I knew he was Country, but I actually thought of him as a little more Folk, and reasonably mellow. The only song I was sure was his was Mr. Bojangles (a song I have loved forever). Even that song was more familiar to me via David Bromberg’s famous version (which discusses Jerry Jeff directly and how he came to write the song).

In this post, I briefly mentioned that we saw Jerry Jeff sing two songs (including Mr. Bojangles) live at a benefit in Austin, TX. That night, he sang alone, playing an acoustic guitar. That contributed to my belief that he was a pretty mellow performer. We loved him that night, so we were quite excited to see him play last night.

We knew in advance that he was appearing with a band. When he came out, he explained that the last two times that he played in NYC (not sure whether it was BB King or not) he played alone, so he thought he’d change things up and bring a band. He came out with an electric guitar, but played rhythm all night. Here’s a fuzzy picture of Jerry Jeff:

Jerry Jeff Walker at BB King

He had a lead guitarist (Tommy Nash), a bass player (Brad Fordham) and a drummer (Steve Samuel). All of them extremely professional. During the first number, Tommy Nash played a nice solo, and I thought that this was going to be a journeyman kind of performance, solid, but unspectacular.

Wrong! By the second number, it was obvious that Nash was a superstar. He remained incredible the entire night. He looked incredibly familiar to me, but I couldn’t imagine that I’ve ever seen him before and wouldn’t have remembered his playing. It turns out that he played with the Dixie Chicks for more than six years (not that I’ve seen them live, so I don’t know why he looked so familiar to me).

Here’s a photo of Tommy Nash:

Tommy Nash at BB King

While there were a few slower, more mellow songs, even those were done in a rich Country band kind of way. For the most part, it was hard-charging old-style Country music (or, as described by many others, Outlaw Country music). I can’t begin to tell you how great it was! The words are fun, the music is up-beat and fast moving, Jerry Jeff’s voice is great, and the band is tight, with an extraordinary lead guitar.

Here’s the entire band on stage:

Jerry Jeff Walker Band at BB King

The show was sold out. Previously, I had firmly believed (and written) that BB King holds 400 people. Lois asked someone last night and was told that it can hold 600. That’s quite a spread, but in any event, there were only a handful of empty seats, as the joint was packed.

I must have been living under a rock when it comes to Jerry Jeff, because I just assumed that the majority of the crowd would have been drawn there on a venue basis (meaning, would have been out for a fun night at a nice place). No way! At least 2/3’s of the crowd were die-hard Jerry Jeff fans. They were crazed for him. That makes these kinds of shows so much more fun. They knew every word of every song, and sang along (very loudly when encouraged by Jeff, and politely when not).

Again, because I obviously didn’t know his stuff well, I assumed that Mr. Bojangles would be held for the encore, being his most famous song (in my uneducated opinion). Instead, he played it early in the show (I think it was the third number), and they did it in a more funky way than the folksy one-person version he sang in Austin. It was excellent (both ways!).

Jerry Jeff has exceptional energy on stage (independent of the fact that he’s 66 years old!). He has a love for the audience that is magnified and reflected back at him from the audience as well. I would call this type of experience pure joy on both his part, and the part of his big fans. They were definitely swept up, and he was glad to sweep them.

They did a bunch of really cool numbers, but one that I hadn’t heard before (it’s obviously a big hit, because finding it on the net was easy) was Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother. Here’s a not-so-great sounding version on YouTube. The song was written by Ray Wylie Hubbard (who used to tour around a lot with Jerry Jeff). Here’s a YouTube video of Ray talking about the inspiration of that song. A very funny story…

Anyway, one of the repeating lines in the song is “Mother who has raised a son so well”. What happened last night, but not in the video that I linked above, is that every time Jerry Jeff sang “so well”, the crowd responded by screaming out So Well, So Well, So Well. It was incredibly cool, since it was obvious that his fans knew in advance that they were supposed to do that, rather than the artist saying, “now sing along with me”…

After playing for 90 minutes, they said goodnight. A few minutes later, they came back out for a two-song encore. After playing the first song, Jerry Jeff did something that I haven’t seen in any concert before, and I’ve been going to concerts for a very long time. He repeated Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother! Obviously, he had tons more material he could have done. Instead, he decided to give the crowd what he believed they wanted to hear, and to participate in. He didn’t guess incorrectly. The crowd ate it up. If it’s possible, they did it with a little more energy the second time.

Total time on stage, roughly 100 minutes. That’s 100 minutes of pure joy and great music. There wasn’t a single dull moment in the entire show!

Now, continuing with the recent tradition, here are all of the non-music parts of the night. Please feel free to stop reading right now if you only wanted to know about the actual show (I promise not to be offended). 😉

As you know (if you read this space regularly), Lois and I were at BB King just this past Sunday to see Strawberry Fields. You would also know that we have five guests staying with us for a long weekend. A friend of theirs is about to graduate from medical school in New Jersey. They invited him (and his girlfriend, who is a first year resident in New Jersey as well) to join us for the show. Given their doctoring, they weren’t able to commit weeks in advance.

While we were waiting for last week’s show to begin, we called our godson to ask whether his friends were going to join us. He checked with them and texted us back that they would be able to make it. I went to the box office and bought two more tickets (we had ordered the first seven on Ticketmaster weeks earlier to make sure we locked them in).

That turned out to be lucky (lucky in that we didn’t know about the Strawberry Fields concert until two days before we attended!). Jerry Jeff sold out a few days later and it would have been awful if the NJ docs couldn’t have joined us…

Lois went over to the manager that night and told him that we’d have nine people back on Saturday for Jerry Jeff. Most of the bigger tables only have eight seats, so she was trying to get a sense of the logistics of handling nine people while keeping us near the stage. He assured her that he would take care of us. He told her to show up at 5:30pm, and he would give us a blue ticket and ensure we got the right seating to accommodate our party. Cool.

We showed up exactly at 5:30pm. There was already a pretty long line outside. Thankfully, the weather was incredibly mild (they had predicted rain all day, and it was sunny all day). We got on line while Lois went in to find the manager. Another manager told her that the one that she spoke to last week wasn’t there, but that it wouldn’t matter, as everything had changed. Apparently, there was a private party going on (friends of Jerry Jeff), and it changed their logistics for the night.

The best laid plans…

This is all of us, excluding Lois who was taking the picture, waiting on line:

On Line at BB King

We waited on line and the line continued to get longer and longer… Normally, the doors open at exactly 6pm, but it was closer to 6:15 when they started letting people in. It didn’t take us too long to get in. It appeared that all of the eight-person tables near the stage were already taken. They offered us tables on the upper level, but at least dead center.

Unfortunately, those are six-person tables. They offered us six and three at two tables next to each other. That was horrible. It would mean that the one person sitting with Lois and me would miss getting to know their friend’s girlfriend (none of them had ever met her before).

Then the host offered us a table for 10, but way on the side toward the back. Lois went to scout it out while we held the center tables. She didn’t like that spot either. All of a sudden I see her waving us to follow her. It turns out there was one more eight-person table, near the stage, but a little to the left of the stage, that was available. We sat there, and Lois sat at a table for four right next to it, right up against the stage.

We all had very good meals (and drinks), including dessert. We had plenty of time to get to know the girlfriend, so the social side of the evening went extremely well too!

When the show started it was instantly obvious that the people to the table immediately to our right (both the eight-person table near us, and the four-person table to the right of Lois’ table, who were with them!) were giant Jerry Jeff fans. They were swaying in a nearly religious manner from the first note.

While it was a tad distracting (most of us at our table had to look between and over them to see Jerry Jeff himself), it was kinda cool to see them so into it. Unfortunately, the cool part wore off pretty quickly. By the time the second song started, some random collection of the 10 of them started standing and swaying during the songs. The guy in front of me was at least 6’4″, and built like a brick house (in other words, very wide as well!), and it was nearly impossible to see Jerry Jeff, except at the extremes of the sways.

His wife/girlfriend stood on her chair for a number of songs! She was only an inch taller than him when standing on the chair (to give you a sense of his height!). No one said anything, because it was obvious that they were delirious with love for Jerry Jeff, rather than just being generically rowdy concert goers.

The only thing that saved the day was that BB King always has two large screens on either side of the stage (roughly 60″ diagonal I’d guess). They show the live action. So, people at our table were still able to see live video of the stage when we couldn’t see it directly.

All of the tolerance changed after the fourth song. Jerry Jeff himself looked at them and said “Please sit down, people behind you paid $85 for a seat, and they’d like to see the show too!” (OK, tickets weren’t quite $85, but they weren’t cheap either, not that it would have made it any better.) They sheepishly sat down. People cheered Jerry Jeff’s move! The people behind joined in and yelled Down in Front once they realized that they had Jerry’s support!

After sitting for one song, they stood again. This time, Jerry Jeff said to the woman who was standing on her chair that she must be blocking more than three rows of tables. They sat down again, but again, only for perhaps two more songs. After that, they did whatever they wanted, and simply didn’t care, and Jerry Jeff just gave up. You’d think that the staff at BB King would have done something, but they didn’t.

What made it more pathetic was that they weren’t lost in the rapture of the moment. They realized that they were annoying people, so they kept turning to the crowd and raising their arms, inviting everyone behind them to get up and dance along. How many times do you have to do that, without getting anyone else to stand up, and not realize that you’re simply being an a**. Oh well, it takes all kinds of people to make up the world…

To be honest, this kind of behavior isn’t all that rare. It’s but one symptom of the Spitzer Generation. Translation: It’s all about ME! Not the slightest thought or care about your fellow concert goers, you paid for your ticket, and by golly, you’re going to enjoy the concert the way you want to, no matter what, including two direct requests from the artist himself, whom you supposedly worship!

One of the people in our party took some photos of them. Of course, without meaning to be rude, they are all mostly butt shots. They are currently on a plane home, but I’ll get those photos in an email in the morning. If any one of them seems particularly apt to make the point, I’ll probably update this post with a photo, and put in a comment to that effect. Perhaps I’ll show some class and just leave it alone. 😉

Thankfully, for me, it didn’t ruin the concert (it easily could have). The music was just too good for them to accomplish that. Whew.

Strawberry Fields at BB King

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I love The Beatles, always have, always will. Every Saturday, there is a brunch concert at BB King in NYC that features a Beatles cover band called Strawberry Fields. We have never been to see it, but I’ve threatened Lois on numerous occasions that I had an interest in going.

One year ago, we went to the regular Sunday brunch concert featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir. We went with friends of ours and their three young kids, and had a blast. Almost two months ago, we set a date to go with them to the Saturday brunch, but we had to cancel when something came up. That’s very rare for us, and we felt terrible, including that I was going to miss out again on seeing the show…

This past Friday, toward the end of the afternoon, I got an email newsletter from the BB King site announcing that on Sunday (last night), they were holding a free concert for fan appreciation, featuring none other than Strawberry Fields! Tickets purchased at the door would have a nominal service charge of $2.00. Tickets purchased online would be slightly more expensive, due to Ticketmaster charges.

I went online and bought two tickets. With all of the charges added on, it cost me $9.37 for the free show. No complaints, but it’s funny nonetheless…

We drove in from the house yesterday morning and spent the day in the city. We went to the club early, as it’s a general admission, first-come-first-served place. We got great seats and relaxed and ordered dinner. The food at BB King is always good, and I enjoyed mine thoroughly. I also enjoyed my Lucille (their name for a type of chocolate martini). 🙂

It took a while for people to start coming in (a little surprising, given that they were advertising on the outside marquis that the show was free). While they never sold out, or even came close to filling up (again, quite surprising), there was a very healthy sized crowd. BB King holds 400 at capacity, and I’m guessing there were roughly 250 people last night.

Strawberry Fields came on at 8:03 (late for BB King which typically starts exactly at 8pm), but obviously, right on time for most venues! They were dressed like the original Fab Four, in black suits. They played the early songs, and played them well. Unfortunately, the microphones were set to a way lower volume than the instruments, and you really had to concentrate hard to hear their voices. Of course, given that every note of every Beatles song is etched on my brain, I could fill in the gaps without thinking about it, but still, it was annoying…

Two times, the band quickly said something to the sound engineer, but it never got better (in fact, for a second or two, it got worse, where they were nearly turned off). Still, it was fun, just not as cool as I had hoped.

They played for 50 minutes, and then announced a break. A few people left at that point. It wasn’t clear whether they left because they misunderstood and thought the show was over, or they didn’t enjoy it, or they got their money’s worth, etc.

The break was longer than expected, lasting 30 minutes! When they came back on, it was in full Sgt. Pepper’s regalia. They played music from that era. The microphone situation was worked on during the break, and it definitely got better, but it was never quite right. While disappointing, it wasn’t that bad. Their voices never miss a note, but they don’t exactly have great voices either.

They did a final costume change during the performance (the waiter told us that sometimes, they take a second break to do that), and played music from the end of the Beatles dressed like they looked then.

When they came on for the second set, the announcer said something that I was unaware of. According to him, The Beatles never played the Sgt. Pepper music live! The one exception was that they broadcast a live performance with a full symphony orchestra.

Strawberry Fields recreates that experience by having prerecorded music of the orchestra (horns and all), which they sing and play along with. You have to be pretty good/tight to pull something like that off, because the recording doesn’t stop if you mess up, etc. One of the greatest bands in history, The Who, used to do that whenever they played Quadrophenia live.

Anyway, Strawberry Fields pulled it off. Even in the first set, the guy who plays George Harrison (Mark “Farquar” Vaccacio) proved to be an excellent guitar player. The guy who plays Paul McCartney (Billy J. Ray) plays the bass extremely well, and left handed no less, just like Paul. The guy who plays John Lennon (Tony Garofalo) played rhythm guitar mostly during the first set, well, but it was hard to tell whether he was really good or not. Finally, the guy who plays Ringo (Gerard Barberine, Jr.) was really good on the drums, even though he was playing on the more minimalist kind of drum sets used by the original Beatles.

In the second set, which was more heavy rock oriented, “Farquar” really went to town. He’s quite an accomplished lead guitarist, and we both thoroughly enjoyed his many riffs. Toward the end, Tony Garofalo (the founding member of Strawberry Fields) started taking more leads. He’s really excellent too!

Toward the end of the show, they brought a birthday cake up on the stage, and Tony/John called up his wife (or significant other) Sandy to the stage, to wish her a happy birthday. She was very reluctant to go up, but Tony (and the crowd) prevailed upon her to do it. He called her his soul mate, and it seemed fitting that the John Lennon character, so smitten by Yoko Ono, would be the one to bring up his soul mate on the stage. 🙂

Then, to top off the show, as a thank you and homage to BB King the person, as well as BB King the club, they did a rocking blues number (both guitarists took fantastic solos, and it was one of the numbers that showed me what Tony can bring!).

Anyway, by the time the show was over, it was 10:30pm! So, they played for nearly two full hours, not including the break. Very cool, and very classy to do for a free concert where you could hardly complain if they didn’t give it their all and cut it a bit short.

We were very glad to have gone, and the only regret was the poor handling of their microphones, something that isn’t typically a problem at BB King.

We’re back at BB King this coming Saturday night to see Jerry Jeff Walker, then again on April 4th to see Dave Mason (again). I’m sure they will have the sound problems worked out by then, or least, I’m anxiously hopeful that they will!

Dave Mason at Blend

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Last night we saw Dave Mason play at Blend in Ridgewood, NJ.

Some things about last night were perfect, others far from it. Since I acquiesced to Lois when similar problems occurred at Canal Room in NYC (covered in this post), I’ll do it again, and cover the music (the perfect part!) first, so you can ignore all the peeves later on.

I have loved Dave Mason from the very start (I was a fan of Traffic, as well as the Dave Mason Band, forever). I still actively listen to both bands on my iPod. Lois doesn’t know Traffic, and until recently, didn’t know Dave Mason well either (though some of his stuff is so famous that she knew it, but didn’t know whose song it was).

When I noticed that Dave was playing at Blend (more details on that in the negative section), I played one of his albums for her in the car, so she too was excited to see them last night.

There are five guys in the band. I linked to the band section of the site above, rather than to the home page (which doesn’t seem to be particularly up-to-date). You can certainly read the bios on that site better than I can summarize them here, but I want to mention at least something about each member of the band.

In their order on the stage, left-to-right:

  • John (Johnne) Sambataro played both acoustic and electric guitars. He was fantastic. When it was his turn to wail, wail he did, leaving the crowd in a frenzy. But, he’s no hog, as he supported the entire band when that was more appropriate.
  • Bill Mason played the organ (electric piano). He was solid the entire night. On a few numbers, Dave turned it over to Bill for long solos. He was incredible on all of them. Like Johnne above, he brought down the house whenever the spotlight was on him.
  • Alvino Bennett played the drums. Super solid, perfect rhythm all night, just the right amount of flare. They never gave him a real solo, so I don’t know how he cooks when it’s all about him, but I have no doubt that he can cook. His sense of timing is exceptional. My only complaint is that he’s a little too unselfish, a little too the glue that keeps the band together. Suffice it to say, a great drummer!
  • Alex Drizos played bass. Basically, everything that I said about Alvino above regarding the drums applies to Alex on the bass. So solid it was wonderful to watch and feel the bass lines that he was laying down. Nothing flashy, ever, but always there to keep the bottom perfectly with the entire band.

Both Johnne and Alex sang incredible harmony with Dave all night. Bill sang on at least one number that I noticed, but certainly not many.

Here are photos of the band, sorry about the quality:

Johnne Sambataro and Bill MasonAlvino BennettAlex Drizos

On to the star, Dave Mason himself. I was a tad nervous going in for three reasons:

  1. Would he still have it? (If you recall, I briefly mentioned how awful the Jefferson Starship were in my uber-post on rediscovering live music.)
  2. Would he play the old big hits, or just do new stuff (and if the latter, was his new stuff any good)?
  3. Even if he played the old stuff, and even if he was flawless, would he play them the way I expected to hear them, or would he tinker too much?

I have definitive answers to all of my questions (and perhaps yours) coming up right now! 🙂

Dave Mason is awesome. That answers #1 above. His voice is excellent (as always), and he can hit the full range of notes required to make his hits come alive, which is not unimpressive, since there are some pretty high notes in a number those songs. Whew!

His fingers still fly on the guitar. He doesn’t miss any notes, and he’s as soulful on some of the leads, while rocking the house down on others. Quiet when appropriate, driving at other times. A master of the guitar. On a number of his big hits, he played a 12-string guitar, and the sound of that is just wonderful as well.

Here’s Dave on the 12 string guitar:

Dave Mason on the 12 string guitar

On to #2. The answer is both! He played quite a number of his giant hits, opening the show with World in Changes and Let It Go, Let if Flow. During the night, he also played All Along the Watchtower, Every Woman, We Just Disagree and a couple of other favorites. He also played the title cut from the first Traffic album!

But, I said both above! He also played new tunes that I have never heard. They were awesome! While I would have been wildly disappointed to not hear any of the oldies, I have to admit, if he only played new stuff, and it was as good as the (at least three) numbers that he played last night, I still would have considered the show to be fantastic!

Finally, #3 above. If you watch any TV, you may know the slogan for Simply Orange (it’s an orange juice company). Their slogan is: 100% Unfooled Around With! That should be Dave’s motto with regard to playing the crowd favorites. He couldn’t have delivered better. Whew! 🙂

Dave was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. That was based on his being part of Traffic. For my money, he could be inducted again, just for good measure, on the basis of his Dave Mason Band work, including his new stuff!

Two of his new numbers were played relatively early in the show, and both were electric numbers. Here’s a YouTube video of one of them (from a previous show, well done, but much cooler last night). He only plays a drop of guitar on that number (but still beautifully), and it doesn’t stretch his vocal capabilities, but it’s such a fun song! The catch-phrase line is: Ain’t Your Legs Tired Baby, ‘Cause You Keep On Runnin’ Through My Mind! 😉

As a group, they are extremely tight. No one ever overwhelms the others and the sound engineer keeps the relative volumes correct throughout. His name is Chris Curtis.

They played for 75 minutes, then left the stage (extremely briefly) for the obligatory encore. When they came back out it was just Dave and Johnne with acoustic guitars only. They played another new number that was gorgeous! Then the entire band rejoined, and they played Dave’s money song, Feelin’ Alright. They jammed it perfectly with Dave and Johnne playing lead guitars that reminded me of some of the great guitar duels performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Total time on stage was almost exactly 90 minutes. It left me with a strong taste for more, but it was completely satisfying at the same time! Bravo Dave, Johnne, Bill, Alvino and Alex, you were simply awesome!

They’re playing on April 4th, 2008 at BB King. I’m only telling you this because I just grabbed two tickets, so I’m no longer worried about him selling out (last night’s show was sold out). You are now forewarned that if you don’t go see Dave, you’re missing out on a great show! 😉

OK, this post is already long, but has only been positive. I have a ton of negative things to say about last night, and it won’t be short either, so this post will be horribly long when it’s all said and done. Please feel free to stop reading if you only want to bask in the glory that is the Dave Mason Band, as they were truly as good as it gets…

<Rant>

As you already know, last night turned into YAAWTEW (Yet Another All’s Well That Ends Well) evening. While I can’t complain about the end, and therefore the experience in its entirety, there is plenty to complain about along the way. 🙁

I had never heard of Blend before. They use at least two separate tickets agents, TicketWeb and Ticketmaster. I have accounts with both, and one of them must have shared my email with Blend. I don’t mind that. A month ago, I got an email from Blend promoting a specific show. I never heard of the band, and I didn’t particularly care to discover them (we have an insane schedule as it stands).

But, I quickly scoured the list of upcoming acts, and noticed that Dave Mason was playing there on March 6th, 2008! Wow, I thought that it would be cool if we could swing it. Unfortunately, at first blush, it wasn’t looking all that likely. We were scheduled to be in VA that day. It was also likely that we would be heading home that day, but I couldn’t be sure a month in advance, so I sat on the email, but left it visible in my inbox to annoyingly remind me each day.

After two weeks, we were about to leave for VA, and I realized that if we wanted to do it, we could swing it. I asked Lois. As noted above, she wasn’t really familiar with Dave’s music, but she’s a genius, and realized that I was more excited than a casual “Hey, do you want to see some band I used to listen to?”

She encouraged me to get tickets. As I noted in my recent post on Dan Tyminski Band at the Birchmere Theater, I get nervous going to new venues, in particular when they are first-come first-served type of places. If you read that post (or have ever been to a show at Birchmere!), then you know that my fears regarding Birchmere were 100% unfounded, as the place is nearly perfect in all respects!

What’s the opposite of Birchmere? Blend! 🙁

We called two weeks in advance, to ask some standard questions (OK, Lois called, at my request, to get my standard questions answered). 😉 She asked if they serve dinner, they said yes. She asked if it was in the room where the show was held, they said yes, but that they also serve dinner in a more formal dining room. Lois asked again (I heard it with my own ears!) whether we could eat in our seats in the theater where the show would be, and again, she was told yes.

She was told that the doors open at 7pm for the show. The rest of the rooms (bar and restaurant) open closer to 4pm I think, so if we showed up really early, we could eat first I think. But, we were planning on leaving from Zope, so we would be driving straight from VA, and likely getting there at around 6:30pm.

For many reasons, we decided to leave on Wed from VA and head home. We got out later than we had planned, and arrived home at 10pm. We worked all day and left for the show at around 5:45pm. We got to Blend at 6:25. I dropped Lois at the door so that she could pick up our tickets (they were held at Will Call) and get on line for the 7pm opening.

After circling to find parking, I walked in the front door at 6:35. Lois was nowhere to be found. I had to wait for a number of people to be seated in the restaurant (including Jay Gold, if you know who that is!). Then I got to ask about Lois. They had no idea who I was talking about, but told me I was welcome to walk around and look for her…

I did, and I spotted her in the restaurant sitting alone at a table. I was surprised, to say the least. She told me that they informed her at the door that they would not be serving in the show room. It was now 6:45. We were more interested in good seats than in dinner, but I was pretty hungry nonetheless. When the waitress came by to ask if we wanted drinks, we told her that we were still trying to decide what to do.

We made one mistake which I am truly sorry for, and that is that we stood the entire time. While we weren’t directly in anyone’s way, the mere fact that we didn’t sit at our table was already a distraction to the rest of the diners. It also caused more of the staff to pay attention to us (which part of the reason why we didn’t sit).

Another hostess came over to ask what the problem was. We explained, and she asked “Who told you that they would serve dinner downstairs?”. Huh? So, either we’re liars, or you’re going to spank the person who gave us the bad information? Either way, you aren’t close to solving the problem. We explained our situation again, and she said she needed to check further and left.

A minute later, the manager came by. We explained (again). He said “Of course they are serving dinner downstairs, you’re welcome to just eat there!”. Lois was satisfied, but I said “Great, but that’s not what the hostess said.” Oh oh. You could see him turn white as a ghost, and he immediately backtracked and said “Uh, wait, let me check.”

He left, and Lois left with him. A few minutes later, a woman named Lori (sp?) came over to talk to me. She was marginally prickly, but I could understand, as we were borderline causing a scene (just from the traffic at our table). I explained our situation (again). She said that there was no food being served downstairs, but that occasionally, they do, when there is no separate seating and standing areas.

I told her that we called and asked specifically for this show and were told that they would be serving. Clearly, she thought I was lying. Again, wonderful customer service. Now it got weird…

I told her that all we cared about was getting good seats downstairs. I told her that my wife wasn’t really that hungry, and that she was willing to wait on the line for the doors to open at 7pm, and that I would order and eat here at the table, problem solved!

Amazingly, she says to me “What makes you think the doors open at 7pm? The doors open whenever the artist, in this case Dave, is in the mood to play!” Huh? Did the person we called also get that part wrong? Are the show times as listed on the site just guesses? If the artist wants to start playing at 6:30pm is that OK too, or just late starts are acceptable? This was getting surreal.

At that moment, Lois returned, in a reasonable huff. That was unfortunate, because Lori clearly had a hair trigger as well, and Lois was as close to that mood as possible. She told me to go with her, that indeed they were serving food downstairs. Lori lost her cool. She said “Maam, I’m the owner, and I’m telling you that they aren’t serving food downstairs!”. Lois said “I was just down there, and people are eating, and the bartender told me that I was welcome to come in and order!”

The fireworks started for real now. Lori called someone else over and told them to go downstairs and make sure the door was locked! Very nice touch! She then explained that the food was being served to the band, not the public. When Lois again said that the bartender told her she could come and eat, Lori said that we were welcome to eat standing at the bar, but not until the doors opened for the public, which would be very uncomfortable.

When she saw how amazed we were to be treated this way (by an owner no less!), she offered to refund our money. We politely declined. We walked out of the restaurant, and went around the corner to a Quiznos. This was my first time in one, and I had a very nice Mesquite Chicken sandwich on toasted whole wheat. We were back in the place by 7:05pm!

We went downstairs to pick up our tickets. There were already roughly 20 people ahead of us crowding the door (which was indeed locked!). We were given green paper wristbands, signifying that we had seats (not specific ones, just that we were allowed to sit in a chair). Standing room only people had orange paper wristbands. We were crowded in like cattle, in a tiny area, waiting for the doors to open. People were piling down the stairs to get on the line. This couldn’t end well…

It got extremely hot down there. Lori showed up and announced that she would turn off the heat, and I think she did, but it didn’t get cool, it just stopped getting hotter. The doors didn’t open until nearly 7:35pm.

When we walked in, we saw that there were roughly eight or nine rows of chairs tightly packed together, and then open space from the last row to the door. We could have gotten aisle seats in the first few rows, but I grabbed two seats in the fourth row, dead center. So far, so good. The seats were hard plastic, and were reasonably uncomfortable to sit on for hours, but that was hardly the low point in the evening.

The temperature in the room was close to absolute zero! While I only had a T-Shirt on, I also (cleverly) declined to check my coat in the sauna area, so I was able to get comfortable quickly. A number of people commented to me that I was indeed a very smart guy to bring a parka-like coat to the show. 😉 Over the course of the evening, it got marginally warmer. I never took my coat off, but during the encore, I was mildly on the warm side…

So, I was prepared for the show to start late, after all, nothing in this place was as advertised, so why would I expect 8pm to be a firm time. A little to my surprise, someone came on the stage at 8:09, perhaps to announce Dave?

Nope. The person came on to announce an unlisted warm-up group. Well, group is a stretch. Two people, both locals that play in the upstairs bar at least twice a month. Nikki Armstrong and Dave Fields. Nikki is a blues singer, and Dave is blues singer/guitarist/producer.

Dave’s guitar (an acoustic one) wasn’t mic’ed correctly, so that delayed the show. While they were trying to sort that out, Nikki was freezing on the stage, and she was wearing a coat! They gave up (thankfully, reasonably quickly) and Dave switched to an electric guitar, which worked.

As I’ve mentioned before, not communicating effective and correctly with your customers is not a great strategy. These people were not listed on the site. Aside from the surprise angle, their music wasn’t a great match for an act like Dave either.

They played six songs. Most of the people that were seated were polite. We were quiet during the songs, and clapped after each one. The people who were standing completely ignored Nikki and Dave. They couldn’t have talked louder if you egged them on to try. Honestly, I can’t even blame them. No one came to see them, and there was nothing about their music which was compelling enough to grab our attention.

Basically, they have some talent (certainly tons more than I have, so who am I to talk?). But, they are more like a lounge act (in my opinion), that is expected to be there in the background, for some people to focus on a bit here and a bit there, but for others to continue to converse while the background music fills the room.

Dave plays the guitar respectably, but considering the string of simply amazing guitarists that we’ve seen in the past six months (Bill Cooley, Joe Don Rooney, Keith Urban, Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour, Craig D’Andrea, etc. – all linked in the tags section of the post), it was a disappointment.

In general, it was a time-waster and a disappointment. Of course, at that point, we were wondering whether this was just par for the course for Blend, and whether we should have taken the refund. The show was sold out, so offering us the refund wasn’t all that generous (it certainly was offered with derision, not apology), because Lori could have sold those tickets five seconds later.

They left the stage at 8:45pm. I assumed that Dave would be on at 9pm. All of the equipment was already fully set up. Wrong again. They came on the stage at 9:12pm.

You already know that from that second onwards, it was a perfect evening. Of course, we didn’t get home until 11:30pm (yup, we’re old folk, so that’s late), when we could have been home by 10:30 if they had put Dave on at 8pm…

The only good news (not counting the concert itself) about Blend is that they didn’t get a dime of our money, even though we started out wanting to support the place. We wanted to have dinner there, but I ended up eating at Quiznos. I wanted to drink there, but ended up happily passing (even though waitresses were serving people drinks from the bar at the seats). I simply was happy not to give them any more of my money, even if it meant missing out on a chocolate martini. 😉

</rant>

Abigail Washburn and Sparrow Quartet at Joe’s Pub

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At the bottom of this very long post, I mentioned that Lois and a friend were going to see Abigail Washburn at Joe’s Pub, on April 3rd, 2007. I went to see the Allman Brothers Band on the same night with that friend’s husband, so I didn’t blog about Abigail, even though Lois gave me a complete update.

Lois really enjoyed the show, which was Abigail playing banjo along with Ben Sollee playing cello. She bought two of Abigail’s CDs after the show. One thing that makes Abigail different is that she’s fluent in Mandarin, and writes and sings a good portion of her repertoire in Chinese!

I listened to both CDs while exercising, and while I liked both of them, I got a little tired of the Chinese (which I enjoyed on the first cut) after the third or fourth song that was in Chinese.

Her life story is fascinating, and well worth the read on her site (click on Bio on the bottom left of the screen).

Last night, she played at Joe’s Pub again, this time with her new quartet (Sparrow Quartet). In addition to Ben Sollee (mentioned above), the quartet includes Bela Fleck and Casey Driessen.

Bela is considered by many to be one of the greatest banjo players in the world. Casey is an extraordinary fiddle player. I had never seen Bela, and wasn’t familiar with his music, but I certainly had heard of him, in particular Bela Fleck and The Flecktones. His bio is fascinating too. Among many interesting facts is that he holds the record for most categories of Grammy nominations. In other words, he’s an exceptionally talented person!

I was particularly interested in hearing them, because I love banjo playing, and hearing two banjos on the same stage is unusual.

Whew, lots of background…

A quick word on the meal. Chocolate Martini was perfect, as always. Seared Tuna was as delectable as always (done to perfection). Joe’s Fries were yummy too! Absolutely perfect meal, which ended seconds before they took the stage, perfect timing on that front as well.

The concert was excellent. They are a talented group of people. Abigail had a cold, but she sounded great anyway, so I guess she sounds better on other nights, but I wasn’t disappointed.

That said, they only played one purely instrumental number (about 2/3 of the way through), and to me, it was by far the best number of the night. That’s not to take anything away from her voice, which is excellent. There is just a ton more energy in the group when they are jamming together, rather than accompanying Abigail.

While listening to a half dozen songs in Chinese was much more interesting live than on CD, it was at least a tad over the top (to me). A little more so for Lois.

Thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I would see them again live without hesitation. That said, I wouldn’t likely listen to a CD of last night’s performance, so (to me) this is more of an immersion experience than a just listen one.

Here is a YouTube video of them playing together in Shanghai. They sat in the same order (Fleck, Washburn, Sollee, Driessen) last night as well. I found it slightly ironic that this is a song done in English to a Chinese crowd, while we heard a bunch of Chinese delivered to an American crowd. 😉

Here is a much longer YouTube video, which includes music and interviews with all of them in Beijing. If you haven’t lost interest to this point, I found it quite enjoyable.

If you’re reading this today (Saturday, 1/12/2008) and you’re already in NYC, they are playing again tonight at BB King, so you can catch the show and decide for yourself! 🙂

California Guitar Trio at BB King

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If you don’t know how we came to see California Guitar Trio (CGT), you didn’t read my previous post.

Last night was a typical evening for us at BB King’s. We had excellent seats, and thoroughly enjoyed our meals, including a fabulous chocolate martini for me too. Yummy.

CGT is three guitarists who are each individually amazing, but together, are mind-bogglingly good! Paul Richards (whose diary mentions BB King and he posts some really good photos of the group as well), Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya. Each of them (by default) has a very different sound for their amplified acoustic guitars, so you can close you eyes and still distinguish which one of them is playing.

As Paul’s diary notes, last night they had Tony Levin sitting in with them. Paul congratulated Tony for winning Bass Players Magazine award for Best Bass Player just the night before! If you read the string of bands that Tony has played with in the first paragraph of this entry, including many of my favorite groups, you won’t be surprised! He is amazing, and he sat in for the majority of the numbers they played.

While there is a similarity to Acoustic Alchemy, which drew me to wanting to hear them, they really aren’t all that similar. Acoustic Alchemy is all Jazz, all the time. They are also more than just guitars (though that’s their calling card!), as they have many more instruments accompanying them. They also tend to be more consistent in being melodic.

CGT is more creative in some ways (in this sense Acoustic Alchemy is more commercial). They also play many more styles of music. Without changing guitars, but definitely by changing the electronics on the amplifiers, they perform hard rock, classical, jazz, etc., and all of the styles, brilliantly. In addition, they are just plain fun when they are performing, and it’s contagious.

They played their own arrangement of Beethoven’s Pastoral, gorgeous beyond description. They also did a version of Beethoven’s Fifth, which was funky, and really cool.

In addition to the different default sounds that they each produce, they also all play in different styles. Individually, each style is fantastic. Blended, it’s simply unreal (in the good sense). 😉

When they said “Thanks and goodnight”, the crowd went crazy (us included) and all instantly shot up in the air for a standing ovation. We all stood until they came back out. They played one terrific song, and then said that they would finally play the single most requested guitar song in history, that they never used to play.

They then proceeded to play Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd (those of you who read my post about Treble, will now understand the small world nature of hearing two different groups, on the same day, in different venues, covering two of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous songs, one a cappella, and one only instrumental!).

They started out playing it in a funky reggae style. It was cute and fun, but as my regular readers already know, I’m not typically crazy for fooling around with classics. However, after building up the momentum, they hit their electronics, and wailed as brilliantly (on acoustic guitars!) as the original version by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Simply amazing, and they brought the house down.

So, now they say goodnight again, and the crowd gives them another rousing standing ovation. They unplug their guitars, and start to head off again, when they stop, and Paul says that we should all be extremely quiet, as they are going to try another experiment. He tells us that all three of their guitars are really soft-sounding, so we’ll have to huddle up because they are going to play one final song, unplugged.

They stepped out to the very edge of the stage, and played Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Lead guitar replaced the voice. You really had to listen closely, but it was one of the most gorgeous and amazing things I’ve ever heard. Mystical, magical, perfect, etc. At least once, we all missed a few notes when they did something clever, and most of the crowd couldn’t help but chuckle together.

Now, if you thought that was the end of the amazement, you were wrong. 😉

They then announce that they’ve been recording the concert live, in real-time, and that they have a high-speed CD duplicator there, and that if we want, we can wait 10-15 minutes, and purchase a CD of tonight’s show. Of course, we (and most of the crowd!) couldn’t resist such an offer.

I bought ours after a brief wait on a long line (I was near the front, thankfully), and bought four additional CD’s. Three were CGT and the fourth was Bert Lams doing Bach Preludes on the Steel Guitar (recall that I recently mentioned that classical guitar is my favorite!). I’ve listened to a little of Bert’s CD today, and it’s fantastic! All three of them signed our Live CD.

A night we will never forget, with a group that I now count way up among my favorites!

P.S. The obligatory mention of Girlyman isn’t as easy in this post, given that I wove it in so politically correctly in the last one. I even forgot to put it in last night, even though I tagged the post with Girlyman. I’m adding this mention after the fact. Whew…

Charlie Daniels Band at BB King

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Last night, Lois and I went to BB King’s to see the Charlie Daniels Band (CDB). In the past, I’ve mentioned that Lois is a huge Country music fan, and that I have (happily) come along for the ride. The truth is that I have loved CDB since I was a teen (their first album came out 33 years ago, and I’m pretty sure I still have the vinyl of it from my teens!), but I guess I never made the connection that it was “Country” that I was enjoying.

So, we were both very excited to go see a band we both loved, at a place we both love.

We got there right before the doors opened and got very good seats not too far from the stage. I ended up eating something quite appropriate for a CDB concert, a Pulled Pork sandwich. They do it really well at BB King.

CDB (and Charlie in particular) were simply spectacular. The crowd could not have been more over-the-moon for him/them. Roughly 1/2 the audience gave them a standing ovation after every number (not typical for most acts). My leg didn’t stop stomping (right, not just tapping), the entire show.

One person in the crowd yelled out “Happy Birthday yesterday Charlie”. To which Charlie responded, “Well, not quite. I turn 71 next Sunday!” (a week from today). At that point, the entire audience sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Wow, 71, and his fingers still fly on the guitar, and he can fiddle with the best of them as well! His singing voice is as strong and smooth as ever as well.

The band did one completely instrumental number, with every member in the band taking at least one solo, to show off their individual virtuosity. They are awesome.

One giant difference from nearly every concert we’ve seen in NYC ever. In most, if there is anything even remotely smacking of politics, it turns into Bush Bashing instantly, and the crowd typically eats it up. This is, after all, New York City. Charlie was not political, but he was 100% in support of our troops. When he dedicated a song to them (In America), the crowd went nuts, and could not have been more supportive of the troops, and of CDB’s homage to them, etc. It was an amazing difference in crowd sentiment to what we’re used to. It was refreshing!

So, what should have been a perfect evening had one small disappointment to it. CDB played for exactly one hour, to the second. This is the shortest concert that I have ever attended in NYC, and given how great they were, it was disappointing. They closed the show with the ever-pleasing crowd favorite The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Charlie introduced the song with: “I know you wouldn’t let us off the stage alive if we didn’t do this one!” 🙂

No encore, which was surprising, to say the least…

Anyway, better an hour of perfection than two hours of nonsense, obviously, but still, he left us wanting a lot more, especially for the ticket prices he commands…

Rediscovering Live Music

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Sorry folks, this is likely gonna be another long one. It’s 5:30pm on a Sunday, and I’m relaxing in the hotel down near Zope, and this is what I feel like doing at the moment…

From my mid-teens until my early twenties, I was a fanatic for going to live concerts. I went to a variety of shows, but by far it was mostly rock or folk. Among my favorites back then were Dylan, David Bromberg, The Greatful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Santana, etc.

The greatest concert I ever attended was a 12 hour affair. My friends and I drove from NYC to Washington, D.C. for a concert at RFK Stadium. I was 16, and only had a learner’s permit (this will become important later in the story). 😉 At noon, the warm-up group came on, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. They played for 2 hours, and were excellent. At 2pm, The Greatful Dead came on, and played for 5 hours. At 7pm, The Allman Brothers Band came on, and played for another 5 hours.

Both the Dead and the Allman Brothers were awesome. Hard to pick between them that day, but perhaps (just perhaps), the Brothers outdid them a bit. Of course, since they got to go last, it could simply have been that their stuff was still ringing in our ears all the way home. 🙂

Anyway, when we left (hitting the parking lot at 12:30am), the driver (the only female in our group) was too tired to drive at all. So were the other two. I felt fine, but wasn’t legally allowed to drive at night, without an adult, and oh yeah, I had never driven on a highway either! 😉

Suffice it to say, it was quite an experience for me, and a drive that normally takes 4+ hours took a little more than 3.

I can still remember my last live concert (of that era) like it was yesterday. I got two tickets to see David Bromberg at Town Hall. First row in the Balcony. I was incredibly excited. I had seen Bromberg live 5 times before, and each one was better than the one before. He’s a magical live performer who really connects with the audience.

Much to my surprise (and chagrin), the audience was mostly teeny boppers. I was all of (perhaps) 23, so I was truly mature… It seemed to me that I was the only person in the audience who had ever heard of Bromberg, and came to actually see him specifically. The rest seemed to be out for the evening, hanging with their friends. They never stopped talking (loudly) even for a second. At least twice, Bromberg stopped playing in the middle of a song (I had never seen something like that ever before) and practically begged the audience to be quiet. They didn’t comply… 🙁

I decided that night to stop going to see live music…

That pretty much held true until nearly 15 years later. The Greatful Dead were playing Madison Square Garden, and I was able to get two tickets in the fifth row center as part of a charity thing. I wanted to do it both because I was crazy about the Dead, and because I wanted to share this kind of experience with Lois, who had never seen a band like the Dead play live.

We were grossly disappointed. Everyone stood the entire evening, and Lois could barely see the stage even standing on her seat (and we were 5 rows back!). The selection of music was a little strange as well, and they played the shortest concert I’ve ever seen them do, in the 5 times I’ve seen them live. Oh well, my admonition not to go to live concerts seemed safely back on…

I think the only exception to that rule was an evening at a Jazz Club in NYC (Birdland) to see Stanley Jordan. If you don’t know him, he plays an amazing style of guitar whereby he taps on the strings on the frets, rather than ever picking or strumming. He creates quite unique sounds, and is a fantastic performer. I enjoyed the evening. That night was more about an evening out with friends, including dinner, rather than the concert being a real destination.

Then it all changed (albeit a little more slowly to begin with) 😉

On January 17th, 2003, our godson (who was a junior at Duke at the time) came for a long weekend with some of his friends from school. Lois is a master planner and goes out of her way to try and pack as many interesting things to do whenever people come to visit. Our godson played the trumpet in the Duke marching band so Lois looked around to see if any famous trumpet players were in town. Indeed, Arturo Sandoval was playing at the Blue Note.

I think there were 7 of us there for the show, and we had dinner beforehand, and totally enjoyed the show. As much as I love jazz (and I really do!), Arturo’s style isn’t necessarily my favorite, but seeing him perform live was still a wonderful experience. In December 2003, our godson returned with a nearly identical set of friends for an encore (I think there was one swap in the group). We went back to the Blue Note, and saw Jane Monheit. Wow, can this lady sing. I got in trouble on this trip because we got to the club a little later than usual, and had the worst seats in the house (which aren’t that bad!), but Lois still hasn’t forgiven me, over three years later…

From that point on, we went occasionally to the Blue Note, either by ourselves, or when someone was visiting from out of town, and once even went with local friends (if you can believe that). 🙂 Among the people we saw there (I can’t remember them all) were Bob James (writer of the theme song from the TV show Taxi), Maynard Ferguson (twice, unfortunately now deceased), Acoustic Alchemy (probably my favorite jazz group!), Chuck Mangione (was my favorite for a long time, and is still amazing live) and probably another one or two.

This was over a period of three years, which is why I said above that it built slowly at first. Last September, it hit a fevered pitch, as we broadened our venues beyond the Blue Note. I started actively searching for tour dates for some of my favorite groups, and immediately found out that David Bromberg was playing at BB King Blues Club. We had never been there. The show was awesome, and included an hour of a group called Angel Band (which is three women who sing harmonies like angels, including David’s wife Nancy Josephson).

Since then, we’ve been to BB King’s many times. We’ve seen a wide variety of shows there, including the following groups: Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (who tour and record together now, which we didn’t know in advance. They were awesome.), Shawn Colvin, Paul Thorn (he opened for Ricky and Bruce, and was a delightful surprise), Quicksilver Messenger Service (they were boring), Jefferson Starship (used to be a favorite, but they’re over the hill, were awful, and we left early!), The Commitments (from the movie of the same name), Yama Bandit (unannounced opening group for The Commitments), Sunday Gospel Brunch (tons of fun!), perhaps one or two others…

We also discovered a fantastic small club in NYC called Joe’s Pub. The first group we saw there is one of my recent favorites, The Duhks. Then we saw Master McCarthy and Fools for April with our godchildren. Finally, we saw David Bromberg solo there. A great treat!

We saw Dave Koz at the Beacon Theater on Valentine’s Day. It was an amazing show, even though the acoustics were horrible! He had two special guests that played most of the evening with him and his band. David Benoit and Jonathan Butler. David Benoit is one of the great jazz pianists. Lois is now one of his biggest fans. I had never heard of Jonathan Butler before. He’s a South African singer and guitarist. He blew me away. Anita Baker was supposed to be a special guest, but she got snowed in and couldn’t make it. Koz got his buddy Be Be Winans to step in at the last minute. Be Be sings “The Dance” on the Koz album of the same name, and is one of our favorites. It was a special treat to see him sing that song live!

Last week we saw Chris Thile and his new band The Tensions Mountain Boys at Zankel Hall, which is part of Carnegie Hall. Chris is considered by some to be the world’s greatest mandolin player. We used to think his last name was pronounced “teal”, but it turns out it’s “theely”, who knew. After recording a few albums on his own, he was the lead person in Nickel Creek (one of my favorite groups), before forming this group. Zankel Hall is under ground at Carnegie Hall, and perhaps the best acoustical venue we’ve ever been in.

That pretty much catches you up on what we’ve done. We have two more shows coming up in the next month. On April 3rd, we were supposed to see The Allman Brothers Band together at the Beacon Theater. Two weeks ago, we were having dinner with two of our favorite people, and we realized that the guy was a big Allman Brothers fan. Lois isn’t (simply because she hasn’t listened to them much, not because she actively dislikes them), and we offered up her ticket to him. Instead, Lois and his wife are now scheduled to see Abigal Washburn and Bethany Yarrow + Rufus Cappadocia at Joe’s Pub. We found out about Abigail Washburn when we were seeing Yama Bandit at BB King, and the person next to us (who was friends with the Yama Bandit band) told us how great Abigail is.

Finally, friends of ours who got dizzy when we recounted the above to them over sushi, surprised us a few weeks back and told us that they bought four tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. at Radio City Music Hall on April 21st (inspired by us). We’re looking forward to that show as well. 🙂

Whew! Done at 8:10pm…