” Fire Water in the Fast Lane ” – Joe Walsh and Bad Company

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Waddy Wachtel and Joe Walsh out front at Red Rocks

Concert review- Joe Walsh and Bad Company, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO 5/15/16

” Well, the Rocky Mountain Way is better than the way we had…Oh-oh yeah ! ” – Joe Walsh

” Joe Vitale and I moved to Colorado in …1971 and a half …”, and since then Coloradans have considered Joe Walsh a native. From the James Gang days, with Joe’s original Huge Riff Song  ” Funk 49 ” and the cool burn of ” Walk Away “,  the Centennial State has embraced Joe fondly. With the celebratory ” Rocky Mountain Way “, his place in local lore was cemented. Most Front Range rock fans have their own story of a cool thing Joe did here, the most common being his habit of showing up at KBCO and disc jockeying a shift, sometimes for several days in a row. When the Eagles finally stopped milking their legacy, err, touring several years back,  Joe resumed gigging with his own band, playing not only his trademark Eagles songs – ” Life In the Fast Lane ” and  ” Pretty Maids All In A Row ” – – but the James Gang pearls and his solo tunes like ” In the City “, ” Life’s Been Good “, ” Over and Over “and ” Turn To Stone “. The current lineup backing Joe includes Joe Vitale, his Barnstorm bandmate on drums as well as  Chad Cromwell ; Waddy Wachtel on guitar; Larry Young on bass and Jimmy Wallace on keyboards, Leslie Fuller, Connie Jackson, Windy Wagner and Rickey Washington  as background singers and Clayton Janes on samples.

Joe’s last gig at Hudson Gardens in Denver showed his sensitive side, with a heartfelt tribute to the then-recently departed Levon Helm. Joe played in Levon’s  Midnight Ramble  bands in Woodstock, and admitted that ” I’m not okay with his passing ” before launching an unhurried, mournful version of ” I Shall Be Released “. And this Red Rocks show’s finest moment was Joe’s tribute to ” my friend and brother, Glen Frey “, a moving version of the Eagles’ ” Take It to the Limit “. At first it seemed incongruous to choose a song by then-bassist Randy Meisner when Frey had so many great tunes. But the lyrics rung true – ” All alone at the end of the evening …if it all fell to pieces tomorrow, would you still be mine? ” – and the spotlighted vocal by backing singer Rickey Washington was emotionally charged. The photo montage projected behind the band was filled with old Frey photos, some with his arms around Walsh, and evoked memories of the early days when the Eagles seemed so unaffected by stardom.

The somber moments at Joe’s shows are leavened with humor. At Hudson Gardens , Joe remembered being solicited to contribute a song ( ” In the City ” ) to the 1979 teen gang movie ” The Warriors “. Joe told the producers, ” I know about that.. I was in a gang in high school. We weren’t very tough…we had to be home by seven..” Last night’s opening greeting was ” Good morning”, as if he meant it, and the lead-in to ” Life’s Been Good ” was a funny tale of an airport fan who begged Joe to confirm his identity, then swore that he couldn’t be Joe. ” Lucky I’m still sane after all I’ve been through ..”, as  the song goes.

Joe’s playing was remarkable throughout, and he easily delivered the arena-friendly riffs and solos so well known to his fans. His voice was plenty strong, if fading in the upper register, and the backing vocals were arena-necessary. When Joe intro’d the encore with : ” If I were President…this would be the National Anthem “, everyone in the joint knew what was coming: ” Spent the last year, Rocky Mountain Way, couldn’t get much higher ”


Paul Rodgers and Bad Company on ” The Sky Is Burning “


” Let me tell you about the voices in my head… there’s Levon Helm, there’s Paul Rodgers, and David Barbe..” – Mike Cooley

Back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, Paul Rodgers fronted a great blues rock band named Free, best known for the hit ” All Right Now “, but widely admired for their gritty, uncluttered lamentations like ” Fire And Water ” , ” Heartbreaker “, and ” Don’t Say You Love Me “. That band had a gift for playing slowly,  a trait that would mark Rodgers’ later work. Despite success and acclaim for Rodgers and guitarist Paul Kossoff, Free dissolved in 1973 when bassist Andy Fraser returned to his band Sharks.

Free in Amsterdam 1970 (l-r) Kossoff, Fraser, Kirke, Rodgers, and Winwood

Free in Amsterdam 1970 (l-r) Kossoff, Fraser, Kirke, Rodgers, and guest Winwood

Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke then teamed with guitarist Mick Ralphs ( Mott the Hoople ) and bassist Boz Burrell ( King Crimson ) to form Bad Company.  The band’s sound showcased Rodgers’ vocals and Ralphs’ sparse guitar work ( one critic groused that you had to squeeze solos out of Ralphs like a lemon ) .  Rodgers took some interesting turns after Bad Company, including a Muddy Waters-themed tour with (Santana and Journey) axeman Neil Schon and later fronting a post- Freddie Mercury version of Queen.

Regrettably, Boz Burrell died in 2006, and  Mick Ralphs had to miss the current Bad Company tour for health reasons, but Rodgers and Kirke -the original singer and drummer from Free and Bad Co – made the ride this time, ensuring that the bands’ trademark sound would essentially be intact.The rest of the band this tour will also include former Heart member and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Howard Leese (guitar) and Todd Ronning (bass), both longtime members of Rodgers’s solo group. And while  The Black Crowes’ estimable Rich Robinson, a late tour addition after Ralphs cancelled, was stashed in the background until the encore, veteran guitarist Leese held his own on the lead solos that the fans knew well.Their eponymous first LP holds up remarkably 40 years on , and essentially was the set list for this show, with the addition of later hits ” The Sky Is Burning” and  ” Rock and Roll Fantasy “.  Highlights included smoking versions of ” Moving On ” , ” Bad Company “, Burrell’s great ” She’s Gone “, and ” Rock Steady “, with Robinson finally stepping up to deliver a scorching solo to cap the encore, as well as an acoustic version of ” Seagull “, with Rodgers, Leese, Robinson, and even Kirke on guitars.

Sadly, the only Free tune was in the intermission soundtrack, the late Michael” Iron Man ” Burks’ red-hot cover of ” Fire and Water “, but the replay of the Bad Company LP was more than enough to satisfy the Boomers that packed the sold-out iconic venue. On the heels of Joe Walsh’s set, no one could deny the promoters’ assertion that this would be   ” One Hell of A Night “.

Life has also been good to our Rocky Mountain correstpondent Nanker Phledge. Thanks, Nanks! – Editors.


” The Opening Act ” – Drive-By Truckers at Red Rocks


DBT on the big screen

Patterson Hood, flanked by Matt Patton and Mike Cooley. Unlike Sheriff Pusser, no need for “some big-time Hollywood actor playin’ him on the big screen ” !

Concert review: Drive-By Truckers at Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison, CO 8/16/2015

” The clouds started formin’, five o’clock p.m. ..” – Patterson Hood, DBT: ” Tornadoes “

2015 has been the Summer of Rain at the world’s most beautiful outdoor venue, with an extraordinary number of shows doused by evening showers. In June I stood in a hailstorm through a terrific set by Doyle Bramhall II , wondering if my buddy Il Padrone was riding the storm out in the Men’s room, or had bailed for the parking lot. The Rocks is a No Pass Out venue, meaning no runs to the parking lot, but on that night they announced that anyone could retreat to their cars and return when the Tedeschi-Trucks Band could safely start their set. These considerations crossed my mind as I stood in line with other General Admissioners, layered in less-than-waterproof gear as the ” clouds spat rain “. Many artists allow the Rocks to leave the first and last 20 rows as GA, and if you queue up early you’re pretty likely to get a great seat for a cheaper price.

Red Rocks from top

Red Rocks from top before the Rock Show !

As the rain fell on the line, and I gazed at the dry sanctuary of my Tundra not 50 feet away, I ruminated on my personal Pantheon of musicians and bands, wondering just who I’d stand in the rain to see. The Stones, Springsteen, the North Mississippi Allstars….  yeah, the DBT are on that short list. And with the Bestman, JenniRose, and the Biker Chick all counting on me to hold some sweet seats, I hunkered down and waited for Security to wave us in for the long climb to the turnstiles and the run for the primo spots up front.

” I’m just the Opening Act and I hit my mark…” – Hood, DBT: ” The Opening Act “

Having evangelized the DBT Gospel ad nauseum since TJ turned me on to the band in 2003, it pained me to see them have to open for the Alabama Shakes, a band that Patterson Hood helped launch, in their first appearance at the Rocks. Having seen the Shakes open for Neil Young and Crazy Horse back in 2012, I would have passed on this show but for the boys from Muscle Shoals. The band has wound through some lineup changes since the halcyon days of Southern Rock Opera and the tour de force The Dirty South , with Jason Isbell moving on to dominate the new Americana genre, and bassist Shonna Tucker and pedal steel virtuoso John Neff leaving to find their own paths. The current lineup since 2012 features young bassist Matt Patton and Jay Gonzalez on keyboards and guitar, sometimes simultaneously. Most hardcore DBT fans consider the changes a net positive, with no more Tucker compositions to work into sets and the harder rock edge without pedal steel, yet yearn for Isbell to return like the Prodigal Son. With the band tearing into ” Tornadoes “, ” Gravity’s Gone “, ” Lookout Mountain “, and ” Shit Shots Count “, there was no time to mourn past lineups, just ” shut your mouth and get your ass on the plane “.

” Remember it ain’t too late to take a deep breath and throw yourself into it with everything you’ve got… it’s great to be alive ! ” – Hood, DBT: ” World of Hurt “

Perhaps honoring the revered venue, the band shockingly appeared onstage in dress coats and vested suits, with Hood sporting his shortest haircut since high school. Muscle Shoals natives Hood and Cooley traded compositions throughout the set, with iconic tunes like ” Sinkhole ” and ” Uncle Frank ” interspersed with rarely heard  ” Pauline Hawkins ” and ” Get Downtown “. The band doesn’t often play much from A Blessing and A Curse, the     ” not happy album ” borne of the Isbell/Tucker divorce and Jason’s departure, well chronicled in the band documentary The Secret to A Happy Ending. But for this night, the rendition of ” World of Hurt ” took on an uplifting tone, and when Hood spread his arms to embrace the granite amphitheater crowd and holler, ” It’s great to be alive “, it felt like redemption, as if the current band could honor the past and blaze into the future.

DBT onstage

DBT onstage, flanked by some other band’s equipment.

” I’m just the Opening Act and the van is packed; haulin’ ass to another State…” –  Hood,DBT: ” The Opening Act “

When your band is cited by Rolling Stone as the best live act in America not 3 years ago, it might be a bitter pill to have to open for what might be a lesser talent. But regrettably Deserve’s got nothing to do with it, and the band respectfully tore up the stage for their allotted time and creatively avoided upstaging the headliners by announcing that ” Grand Canyon ” would be their last song. The lovely tribute to their late friend and guitar tech Craig Lieske built to a sonic climax as Hood, Cooley, Gonzalez, Patton, and finally drummer Brad Morgan took bows and applause and walked offstage. As the lights came up and the canned blues filtered over the crowd, it was clear there would be no encore from the band famous for several. To nail the end of the set, leaving the crowd yearning for more, and walk off into the Rocky Mountain night…that’s a tough act to follow. I resisted the urge to bust on the unenlightened just entering the Rocks as my crew skipped out past the ushers warning, ” you can’t come back in “. No need to on this night.

” The secret to a Happy Ending is knowing when  to roll the credits…” – Hood, DBT: ” World of Hurt “


Your faithful mountain correspondent, Nanker Phledge



Midnight up in Morrison– Tedeschi/Trucks Band, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, JJ Grey and Mofro

Concert Review– Tedeschi/Trucks Band- Red Rocks, Morrison, CO 6/15/13


You’ll just have to take my word that’s Susan and Derek. Please ask the boss to buy me better seats! The background is no banner; those are real rocks!

The First Family of the Blues brought their traveling road show back to the nation’s finest outdoor concert venue on Saturday night, still rolling from the momentum of Grammy awards, fawning press accolades, and sellout crowds generated by 2011’s ” Revelator” and last year’s live release ” Everybody’s Talkin’ “. This time, the band brought along their Northeast Florida homeboy JJ Grey with his swamp funk band Mofro and the former blues artist craving mass appeal Grace Potter in her ” sparkly white bathrobe ” (her words, not mine) for six solid hours of inspired funk, rock, blues and jazz that stoked a packed house eager to start the summer season in style. With the Phillies’ pitching staff surrendering basehits like batting practice, our arrival from Coors Field at the venerable Red Rocks was well into JJ Grey’s set, but we could hear the roaring approval of the crowd from the parking lot, where scalpers and failed Craigslist ticketshoppers pleaded in vain for spare ducats. From his backwoods hideout on the far westside of Jacksonville, JJ Grey has managed to craft his own blend of country, folk, rock, and funky blues into a style all his own, informed by a childhood on the rivers and swamps of Cracker Florida and a strong environmental conscience. JJ has become a regular on the summer festival scene and his New Year’s stands at the Freebird in Jax Beach are local legends, but his roots chops have also supported gigs like his leading of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Promise to catch your full set next time, JJ !


Grace Potter on stage and on the big screen, shortly before going Sharon Stone on us!

When Grace Potter appeared on the national scene some ten years ago, she lead a blues-based band playing originals and covers in a humble, unassuming style that made one think she’d slowly grow into a respected artist with a modest following. Her first shows at the Florida Theatre and  Springing the Blues were well received, but when she returned two years ago it was as if she’d fallen under a Svengali’s spell that lead her to dress like Tina Turner, dance like Madonna, and shriek like Yoko Ono. Her songs now tend toward arena anthems and bombastic hard rock, and her bookings and sales would indicate the public embraces her new persona. The set at Red Rocks had plenty of the light-show effects and screaming vocals atop searing guitars, but the best moments were when she dropped the rock-star image and showcased her voice within a comfortable register. The set’s highlight was when the band went acoustic and gathered around Grace for a mini-break that included Jerry Garcia’s Grateful Dead classic, ” Friend of the Devil “, though some would argue for the moment when Grace sat on the drum riser to take off her heels, with that white robe revealing miles of leg and evoking Sharon Stone in ” Basic Instinct”. Gabba Gabba Hey! And Grace pulled many of the aging rockers out of their seats with the band’s encore of the Black Sabbath anthem ” War Pigs “. As Grace said early on, ” we like to mix it up a little “, and she had something for everyone on this night.


Susan and Derek on the big screen well after midnight

Susan Tedeschi had a successful career as a blues singer and guitarist before her marriage to Derek Trucks, nephew of long-time Allman Brothers drummer Butch and namesake of the Clapton monicker from Eric’s brief halcyon days with Duane ” Skydog ” Allman. The slide guitar prodigy was playing onstage with BB King at age 15, and soon moved into the Allmans lineup alongside Warren Haynes in what now stands as the most potent blues/rock band in America when Derek, Warren, and Gregg Allman’s  schedules permit touring together. After their marriage, Derek and Susan continued separate touring and recording, with occasional appearances together, such as the holiday concerts with family and friends at the Florida Theatre. Many observers concluded that Derek’s desire to explore jazz and big-band sounds would never mesh with Susan’s blues roots , but they managed to find common ground without compromising their talents and instincts on         ” Revelator “, and have toured relentlessly since. Their band includes keyboards, three horn players, and two backup singers, and much of the material begins with blues or rock and expands into jazzy improvisation. Saturday’s set included ” Don’t Let Me Slide ” and    ” Midnight Up In Harlem ” from ” Revelator “, and several new tunes from the next CD, scheduled for release on August 27. Typically, they threw in several well-chosen covers that turned out to be highlights of the evening, with Elmore James’  ” The Sky Is Crying “, and Bobby Whitlock’s Dominoes rocker, ” Anyday ” showcasing Susan’s powerfully expressive vocals and Derek’s controlled fret frenzies. The encore brought another tasty treat, with Grace returning ( this time in an impossibly short skirt that barely covered her honkytonk badonkadonk ) to trade verses with Susan on John Prine’s  ” Angel From Montgomery “.

By this time it was well past midnight. The natural mountain amphitheater was lashed by winds that were chilling even hardy fans and playing havoc with equipment. Susan  politely thanked everyone for staying through the six-hour musical marathon, and we trudged down the hill to the parking lot to resume lives delightfully interrupted by the Rock Show.

—Your Mile High correspondent, Nanker Phledge

As The Year Goes Passing By: A Look Back at 2012

The Ghost Writer heads North!

Our guys Harry G and Nanky P hook up by satellite to trade tales of 2012– Ed.

Harry: For me, the year was bookended by memorable shows from two of my favorite mid/late-70’s artists. In early January, Garland Jeffreys made a rare appearance up here in the Great White North. Backed by just a single guitarist and playing to an adoring, sold-out house in a small theater in NE Minneapolis, Garland was animated, engaged and gracious to a fault, staying after the show for hours signing anything people shoved in front of him and posing for photographs. The Parker and Rumour review has already been posted, so ’nuff said about that. Both men proved that rockers of a certain age can still be vital, passionate and relevant, without turning into anachronistic Indian-casino-touring oldies shows.

Nanker: For me, it’s the unexpected, off-the-cuff moments that are the live concertgoers’ reward for tolerating outrageous fees by brokers, no parking near venues, and pre-drink requests for I.D. from twenty-year-olds who can’t grow a beard. ” I.D.? I saw Blind Faith back when your Mom was a preschooler! Give me a damn beer! ”

Malcom, Luther, and John rock the soundcheck

Malcom, Luther, and John rock the soundcheck

How about these: Watching the North Mississippi Allstars’ soundcheck, as Luther Dickinson helped integrate new bassist Lightnin’ Malcom and tour keyboardist Missing Cat John Hermann by jamming on the Stones’ Latin-flavored rave-up finale to ” Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? ” Listening to Mavis Staples telling the story of her father, Roebuck ” Pops ” Staples, writing ” Keep On Marchin’ ” in 1963 for the blood-stained Freedom Marches in Alabama. Hearing Joe Walsh, his little-kid voice choking with emotion, saying of his friend Levon Helm, ” I’m not okay with his passing, but it helps me to sing this “, as he lead his band into ” I Shall Be Released “. Meeting Marcia Ball at the merch tent at Blues Under the Bridge and asking how she liked the Soiled Dove Underground ( she did!). Seeing Bonnie Raitt raise her fists in triumph like Rocky Balboa to proclaim, ” I just had a visit from Dr. Feelgood “, and knowing that every guy at Red Rocks wished it was him.

Blues Under the Bridge 2012

Blues Under the Bridge 2012

Where else but at the Rock Show?

Harry: Ah, Levon! His passing figured prominently in a number of venues this year. In Nashville, at the Americana Music Festival Honors & Awards show in September, not only did a cast of Americana heavyweights gather onstage for a stirring rendition of “The Weight,” dedicated to Levon, but later that evening the song was reprised by a different group of musicians at The Mercy Lounge. Nick Lowe gave a “Good on ya, mate” shout out to the late drummer for The Band at his First Avenue show, shortly after Levon’s death. I feel a certain affinity for Levon, as we share the same birthday (albeit 13 years apart). Like the old Pete Seeger song says, there was a time to mourn and a time to celebrate this year. NRBQ regrouped and put out a strong new album this year, following band leader Terry Adam’s recovery from cancer. A number of local Twin CIties bands put on a Kill Kancer Benefit show, in memory of the late Soul Asylum bass player, Karl Mueller. Another cancer survivor, Danny Amis, played most of a set with his fellow Los Straitjackets band members in September. So, for every loss, there is a survivor, and promising newcomers are always waiting, ready to pick up the torch.

NRBQ at Famous Dave’s in Minny!

Nanker: We should also remember Donald ” Duck ” Dunn, the Memphis kid who teamed with guitarist Steve Cropper and organist Booker T. Jones to make some of the greatest music ever in the late 60s/early 70s at the tiny Stax Records studio in his hometown, backing up Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Wilson Pickett, in addition to his own MGs with Steve, Booker, and the drummer Al Jackson, Jr.

Stax Recording Studios, Memphis, TN

Stax Recording Studios, Memphis, TN

Gebippe at Stax front door, in Otis' footsteps

Gebippe at Stax front door, in Otis’ footsteps!

And here’s hoping for a blowout New Year’s Eve at the 9:30 Club in D.C. with the North Mississippi Allstars Duo and the Drive-By Truckers. ” She ain’t revved ’til the rods are thrown! ” See ya there!

Tedeschi / Trucks Band

Fresh from the center of the musical universe, Morrison, CO, comes the latest from Phledge–

CONCERT REVIEW: Tedeschi / Trucks Band at Red Rocks, August 30, 2012

When Derek Trucks was 15 years old, I saw him open a show for blues legend BB King at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville. At the time, BB was riding the long-overdue resurgence of blues music, finally getting his due as an artist and performer, and playing with mega-acts like U2 on “ Rattle and Hum”. It was with no exaggeration that he was introduced as “ The King of the Blues”. So it was no small gesture when Riley B. invited the local kid back onstage to play a number with him, and while awash in applause afterward, cradled the wide-eyed, ballcap-wearing, barely-look-at-you teen in his arms and announced, “Just think how good he’ll be when he gets to be my age!”

The big man from Indianola, Mississippi was a freakin’ Nostradamus. It might have been last year, it might have been a couple years back, but at some point it happened, and can no longer be credibly denied: Derek Trucks is our greatest living blues guitarist.

Now, “I know what you’re thinkin’ “ ( and it’s not, “did he fire six shots, or only five?”).
You’ve heard Clapton say years back that Buddy Guy is “easily, and by far, the best living blues guitarist”. You’ve seen Jeff Beck return to touring with a vengeance, evoking memories of the trailblazing days with the Yardbirds and those two incendiary LPs with the then-unknown Scot singer Rod Stewart, “Truth” and “Beck-Ola”. You’ve seen guys like Joe Bonamassa and Warren Haynes play with speed and feeling that, for the moment, seems untouchable. But spend one night listening to Derek, either with the fine TT Band that blasted Red Rocks last night, or with the ridiculously talented Allmans lineup that also includes Haynes, and I dare you to tell me that anyone is better.

And with my favorite female blues singer, the other half of the First Coast First Family of
the Blues, Derek’s wife Susan Tedeschi, scorching the landscape with vocals that Janis, Aretha, or Billie would embrace, this is one formidable band before they even leave the house to head for the gig. Add the Allmans’ bassist Oteil Burbridge and his brother Kofi on organ, sterling horns and backup vocals, and the classic Allmans two-drummer attack, and you have a Dorsey or Ellington-like Big Band playing straight blues, jazz, and new landscapes in between. The sold-out crowd at Red Rocks began roaring early on, as Susan belted out gems from the Grammy-winning ( not that that means much; ask Mojo Nixon!) CD, “ Revelator”, and choice unexpected covers like George Harrison’s “ Isn’t It a Pity?”, the Elmore James classic “ Sky Is Crying” and the encore of the Bonnie Raitt signature “Give It Up”.  Susan has a deft ear for covers; when the Allmans played Red Rocks three years ago, she joined them onstage for a great version of Clapton’s Blind Faith chestnut, “ Presence of the Lord”, and two years ago at WanneeFest she wowed with a remake of the Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett rocker, “ Comin’ Home”, another
nod to Derek’s namesake, in that Clapton played on that track with Delaney and Bonnie before the “Layla” sessions. ( As Casey Stengel used to say, “you can look it up!”).

Throughout the show, Derek modestly strolls about the stage, never addressing the crowd, intently monitoring the band’s sound. His playing is frightfully fast at times, but always seems under control, and intended purely for sonic effect, not showmanship. John Mayall used to say that slow blues are the hardest to play, because your mistakes are so evident. So when the band slowed down for twelve-bar blues, or dropped volume for jazzy wandering, Derek’s skill was most apparent. And none of the annoying guitar tech running onstage with a freshly-tuned axe; Derek never put down that red guitar, and tuned his own instrument quickly between songs, or during band solos. Cool!

This band is worth seeing just for the guitar playing and singing, and the material is clearly blues-based.  But Derek is much more than a bluesman, and as noted, this band covers a lot of ground that is more jazz than rock or blues. You may have come to the show to rock out, and you may not dig everything they play, or feel like you had to hear a “banjo bass” solo before you died. But the joy of hearing an ensemble of talented musicians’ inspired playing melts away boundaries and genres, and reminds that “good music is good music”, whatever you wish to call it.

Get out and see this band. Then get back to me on that Best Guitarist thing.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse

This guy will look you in the eye!

Update: Check out David Carr’s great interview with Shakey in the NY Times:


CONCERT REVIEW– Neil Young and Crazy Horse at Red Rocks, Morrison, CO  8/5/12

Exclusive content for seeyouattherockshow from Contributing Editor and Vice Poobah, the inscrutable Nanker Phledge:

Back in 1990, “when dinosaurs still roamed the earth”, an aging “Walkin’” Lawton Chiles became the last Democrat elected Governor in Florida, beating long odds to defeat the incumbent Republican and Dracula lookalike Bob Martinez. Chiles overcame a vicious party primary, his own recent treatment for depression, and paltry finances to pull out a late win despite polls flagging defeat. When asked how he did it, Chiles explained in true Cracker fashion, “ the old he-coon walks by dawn”.

Another old he-coon stalked the Red Rocks stage Sunday night, as an aging, suddenly heavy Neil Young whipped his crop on the backside of Crazy Horse and rode them into a blazing sunset overlooking the Mile High City. Neil flogged away at Old Black and other helpless Gibsons, often face to face with Frank “ Pancho” Sampedro, to the delight of fans who knew every riff, save those wondrous improvisations that make live music superior. Indeed, his now-paunchy midsection and hunched-over playing stance resembled a feisty, cackling coon as he prodded Pancho and the band for more drive, more feedback, more distortion, more improvised choruses and lyrics.

Neil opened with “Love and Only Love”, one of three selections from the Crazy Horse tour de force, “Ragged Glory”, and his voice was stronger than expected. After rousing applause, he nodded to Pancho and started singing, “ look out, Mama, there’s a white boat comin’ up the river…” , to roars from the crowd. Yes, the classic “ Powderfinger”, the song written “ for Skynyrd to record” before Ronnie’s death ( check out “Ronnie and Neil”, on the Drive-By Truckers’ “Southern Rock Opera” for more on that) and later released on “ Rust Never Sleeps”.  If the Grim Reaper had tapped me on the shoulder at that moment, I wouldn’t have resisted. For fans who feared Neil would never tour with the Horse again, it was a transcendent moment. The show continued through one war horse after another, with “ Cinnamon Girl” ( “ Here’s one I wrote this morning”), “ Mister Soul”, an acoustic version of “ The Needle and the Damage Done”,  and a rousing “ My My, Hey Hey ( Into the Black)” to finish. The encore was another “Ragged Glory” selection,“ Over and Over”, and the band joined arms to wild applause before the lights came on.

Amazingly, though perhaps not, considering his stubborn contrarian streak, Neil played not one song from his popular, critically acclaimed recent Crazy Horse release, “ Americana”, which was blasted from many car stereos in the tailgating parking areas. I would love to have heard “ Oh Susanna” or “ Tom Dula” ( I thought it was “Dooley”, like the poor-mouthing Georgia football coach), or “ This Land Is Your Land”, but hey, he’s Neil Young, he can do what he damn well pleases. An amazing show by one of the truly iconic, incorruptible artists of our time. As put so well by Patterson Hood,

“Ronnie and Neil, Ronnie and Neil
Rock stars today ain’t half as real
Speakin’ their minds about how they feel
Let them guitars blast for Ronnie and Neil…”

– Patterson Hood, DBT – “Ronnie and Neil”

Editors’ note: The orderlies have escorted Mr.Phledge back to his room and beloved medication tray. Any connection between Neil Young and Lawton Chiles is purely pharmaceutical.