I was tempted to leave it at that, but I decided that’s just a bit too enigmatic and that I’d better go ahead and explain what an amazing show I saw tonight.
Think back to when you were in high school. Remember when a bunch of guys would gather in someone’s garage and bunch of other folks would sit around on a ragtag collection of lawn chairs while the “band” jammed on FM staples of the day? Or, maybe in college when a bunch of guys would congregate in a living room and blast out some eclectic collection of blues and metal staples…(Smoke on the Water ring any bells?…)
Well, in all those struggling guys minds, all of those guys who couldn’t quite make their fingers on the fretboard do what they mind was requesting….this show is what they sounded like in their mind and their imagination…it was the real life version of the fantasy world where those mortal guitar players could play like the guitar gods they wanted to be.
I saw that fantasy show tonight.
If you’ve never been to the Baked Potato, it’s legendary for a couple things. The quality of musicians that play there and the small size. Think of your typical neighborhood bar…and shrink it. Yeah, it’s that small….50 people small…nowhere to hide small. It’s the sort of place you go see your friend’s band to be supportive and watch them train wreck on some Allman Brothers song. It’s not a place that you see a guy who headlines Albert Hall, a guy who plays with Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and Jason Bonham (if you don’t recognize that name, stop reading now and go look it up…seriously….)
Yeah, I saw one of the top guitar players in the world in a 50 seat bar.
Rock Candy Funk Party is a way for Joe Bonamassa to hang with some other amazing musicians and jam. Tal Bergman on Drums, Mike Merritt on Bass, Ron DeJesus on guitar and Arlan Schierbaum on keys made up the band. And what a band!
After setting onto my cramped stool by the bar and eating one of the namesake baked potatoes, we watched the band filter in and take the stage (call it a wide spot in the room) just after 9:30
Launching into a jamming version of “Have it all” that finally gave way to Sly & the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”. The band was joined by a fellow with some great pipes whose name I could never quite hear, but he totally rocked that Sly song. Next up was “Big Payback” by James Brown and once again the vocalist nailed it. Flat out some of the best funk I’ve ever heard and certainly the best I’ve heard when practically sitting in the middle of the band.
The vocalist departed and we were treated to Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down” followed by a wonderfully soulful version of Tracy Chapman’s “Gimmie One Reason”.
Like I said, this was the fantasy version of every garage/bar band you’ve ever heard. It’s five guys totally having fun and totally in tune with each other…weaving in and out of jams and solos. You were close enough to see the facial expressions, the subtle hand signals, the traded grins to go along with traded licks. One small moment stuck in my head…at one point without missing a beat the keyboard player reached behind him and hovered his hand over the drummers crash cymbal…simply as an extra hand to stop it’s ring on cue as the drummer had his hands full elsewhere. It was totally subtle, but it spoke volumes in it’s simple communication between guys totally in the groove with each other. The cliche is to “play all night”….this one time I truly wish that could have been the case. This was music you wanted to let fold around you and take you wherever it wanted you to go.
The setlist next listed a jam they called “Led Boots”…you get the idea there, right?
Then, in a great show of what volume and dynamics can do…Joe played maybe the best version of BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone” that I have ever heard. I’ve seen BB in the past decade, but wasn’t lucky enough to see him back in his heyday. So, tonight really may have been the best version I will ever hear live…by anyone. Starting out so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, and then growing to full volume before taking it back down to a modest level..there wasn’t a note out of place. Look for it on YouTube (there’s a version from earlier this year up there now)…hopefully this one will make it up somehow as well.
This show is in the same class as the Jeff Beck show for drop dead talent….but, did I mention this was that good AND in a 50 SEAT CLUB……WOW
The show wrapped with one more jamming version of a classic…”Them Changes” by Buddy Miles and the Band of Gypsys.
Terrific show…and not much more that I can say tonight, except.