17th October 2001
Good to see Dr John last night with the great “Creole Moon” album backing group. I was especially thrilled at a 15 minute version of The Night Tripper’s I Walk on Gilded Splinters plus Such A Night as an encore. The guitar player, Renard Poché was a joy to watch. Afro hair, black and white floral flares, fuzz box, wah-wah, vocoder effect, never a smile. He looked and sounded as if he’d stepped out of early Funkadelic.
The sound balance was a let-down. It’s hard in a 1920s theatre (with an empty balcony and only half full downstairs), but so often shows indicate a lack of competence or care from the sound guys. Roscoe’s drums were well-amplified, as was the guitar which had a small Fender amp fed into the PA with a mic. Paul Barard, the bass player is incredibly good (check the album) and it was a pity his sound was so muddy and blurred, though that could be the instrument or his own amp, as he was the only one not controlled by the PA. I was third row from the front, and perhaps it sounded OK at the back where the console was. But Dr John’s mic was harsh and sibillant too and probably pushing just 10% too loud so it was on the edge of going over. The hall has a lot of reverberation, but Van Morrison usually gets over it (a bigger audience helps of course). I loved a lot of the Dr’s act, but I noticed the brightest spots were the Duke Ellington stuff, covers like ‘Cottonfields / Goodnight Irene’ and ‘Candy’ and the really old ‘Walk On Gilded Splinters.’ The issue I think is that the Dr’s boogie playing and charisma are without fault, but some of his own material is too samey … and to be brutally honest, slightly dull. Great, great playing from all concerned. Lacking in melody.
It was a highly professional show, exactly 90 minutes to the second without encore, this guy knows his contract. He also knows that you add the encore to the 90 minute contract, unlike so many who include it. He was watching a clock for the main set and would have been accurate to within a few seconds.
My usual grumble though. The tickets said “Doors open 7pm” which is a weird message in a venue with numbered seats. An apology on the door said “concert at 8 pm”. Then there’s a very nervous young woman singer songwriter for 30 minutes. Good effort, but not what you’d come to see. Then you get the 30 minute interval even though only one mic and one monitor needed shifting. Then you get the 90 minute concert 9 pm to 10.30 pm. I’d rather have arrived at five to nine and missed the first hour. (Into repeat mode), you don’t go to see a theatre company and get an unbilled extra play for half an hour followed by a long interval before the event. Intervals are because you need a break, a drink and a pee, which you shouldn’t after 30 minutes. I applaud Van the Man, Paul Simon, and Michelle Shocked all of whom have ditched this unecessary nonsense and gone straight to the main event (and added a half hour to the 90 minute standard into the bargain). Promoters take note. I know that support spots give new artists a chance and I’ve seen some memorable ones, but they should be billed. As ever, last night’s said her name twice. Once right in the opening applause. Once right in the closing applause. I didn’t catch it either time. That’s a serious error when you’re getting unbilled exposure. I also know that for many artists T-shirts and CDs make more profit than the show, and there were none.
Still, it was another guest at The Last Waltz ticked off my must-see list.