Concert Review- Tab Benoit at Armstrong Hall, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO 9/14/2012
Our mountain correspondent Nanker Phledge gets his Double Secret Probation terminated in time for a supervised return to the rock show!
” Gotta like that 3:2 ratio”, I nodded with approval as I pocketed the coupon tickets from co-promoter George Whitesell and headed across the street to La’au’s Taco Shop for my complimentary three tacos and two beers. Having conned the clueless Editors into buying me a $40 ticket to the show– quite reasonable for a fine artist like Tab in today’s inflated ticket market- I was regaling in the fine VIP package arranged by George and Amy and looking forward to cashing in not only my coupons, but those of my recently-jettisoned ahem, escort, whom I’d sent on a fool’s errand once we hit the campus. ( How many times will they fall for that, ” how bout running in and getting us some lotto tix while I circle the block?”). Now, six tacos and four beers, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! So I skipped across the street to La’au’s , grabbed the first two beers and a clever upright stand loaded with three tasty chicken tacos, and settled in to some great Hill Country-style blues from Grant Sabin. His set was yet another VIP perk, and when he strummed into R. L. Burnside’s ” Po Black Maddie”, even Luther Dickinson himself would have been proud. Tacos, beer, and blues – what a concept!
Thankfully, I had scouted the venue after picking up my tickets, and knew that there was no food or drink available inside Armstrong Hall. Much less beer! Though a fine, acoustically pleasant space, it was much more akin to a recital or lecture hall than a concert venue. This sterile atmosphere would come into play later, as Tab would struggle to fit his gumbo and po’ boys act into the wine and cheese confines of the theater. It’s a truism of pain management and anti-inflammation that even the best meds will come up short if they have to come from behind. You have to stay ahead of the beast! Cagey concert veterans know that in situations like this, you better pre-medicate. Or pocket some Alice B. Toklas! Knowing that at least two hours of enforced sobriety lay ahead, I pounded the next round of Yellow Flag beers and wobbled across the street to my nicely reserved VIP section.
Tab was booked into Armstrong Hall in tiny, tony Colorado College after a great show at Stargazers Amphitheater last year. He plays Colorado frequently in the summer, and has a core of fans of all ages who love his Cajun-flavored, uptempo blues-rock. He’s tall, handsome, talented, and charming. Women frequently interrupt his short breaks during well-paced sets to ask that he remove articles of clothing, like he’s Tom Jones in the Sixties or something. He plays only what he likes, makes a good living, and makes people happy with his music. It can’t suck very hard to be Tab Benoit.
But Tab is a Loozianna country boy who wears jeans and doesn’t tuck in that Western shirt. He grabs guitar picks from the huge open jaws of a plastic gator head perched atop an amp, like his Mom was Polk Salad Annie. He plays a beatup Fender that looks like the woodshop class bandsawed it out of the desk you carved your initials into in kindergarden. His lyrics and music are from the swamps of the bayou, where nature reduces all to the most basic elements, like an all-day gumbo simmered down to the cast iron pot.
Sadly, when I stumbled back across the street inside Armstrong Hall, the atmosphere was almost librarian. No drinks, no food, and strangely, no rest rooms on the same floor as the concert hall. Obviously not designed to accomodate beer drinking rock fans!
The venue seemed to place the crowd in a sedated state. Tab joked that the house was eerily quiet, and that he felt like he was ” interruptin’ somebody studyin’ “. He remarked that he had played the Springs many times, in many joints, but this was ” the cleanest”. The blues-rockin’ Cajun wailed on that battered Fender, charging through several up-tempo rollers from his repertoire of crowd-raising songs, to no apparent effect. Though he had earlier played off several hollered requests– “not yet”- he began imploring the crowd to call for favorites: “Now, how many times can you call out and have an artist do what you want? If you call Lady Gaga and ask her not to wear the meat suit, she’s still gonna wear it!”
Things finally got to jumpin’ as Tab launched into ” Night Train ” and several numbers from his ” Medicine ” CD, with its message – ” bring me my medicine”- that anyone could get behind. He closed out the set with a bang, and blazed though a too-short encore that saw the crowd finally get involved and dance in front of the stage.
You don’t spoon gumbo from fine china, and you don’t pour an Abita into crystal. Tab played a great, enthusiastic set in a hall that would be better suited for a chamber quartet recital, and never quite connected with the audience as a result. Artists like Tab feed off the energy from the room, and play better as a result. Catch Tab in a down-home venue where you don’t have to cross the street to get a beer!
( Memo to staff: please audit Phledge’s expense account — Editors)