Supported by Ian W. Brown
Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne, Dorset
1st May 2016
RITA COOLIDGE SETLIST
Hallelujah, I Love Him So
Shoo Rah Shoo Rah
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
Late Again (Getting’ Over You)
Who’s To Bless & Who’s To Blame
Lovin’ Arms (duet with Hamish Stuart)
I Can’t Stand The Rain
We’re All Alone
Born Under A Bad Sign
The Way You Do The Things You Do
How Sweet It Is
Band intros and solo pieces
Cherokee National Anthem (Amazing grace)
Higher and Higher
I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love
(I didn’t catch the names in full; I thought she said Jack Ballard, but it must be jazz drummer Jeff Ballard)
Hamish Stuart – guitar, vocals
Spencer ? – keyboards, backing vocal, MD
Michael Bailey – bass guitar
Jeff Ballard – drums
This concert marked her 71st birthday. Rita Coolidge’s career has been largely based on astute cover versions, with impeccable backing. She’s covered Boz Scaggs, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, the Gibb Brothers, Carole King. She co-wrote and sang Superstar on Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Delta Lady was written for her by Leon Russell. The piano part for Layla was Rita Coolidge’s, and she was never credited. She was married to Kris Kristofferson, romantically involved with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. My personal favourite era is Walela, the Native American group she founded with her sister Priscilla Coolidge, and niece Laura Satterfield. They performed with Robbie Robertson at the Agrigento Festival, and the 2002 Winter Olympics ceremony. So a career encompassing a huge slice of 70s, 80s and 90s music. She has to curate a setlist from so many albums.
I didn’t catch the names of the band properly and welcome corrections. I recognized Hamish Stuart (ex Average White Band) though, and I saw him at the Larmer Tree Festival with Gordon Haskell just before Van Morrison in 2001. I have a strong feeling I’ve seen him since. He is in that Albert Lee position of a guitarist everyone wants to work with – ask Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. A true master of the funk guitar, and brilliant all evening. The bass guitarist was seated and appeared to be reading from music. The drummer was also looking at sheets on a music stand, so I guess they’re a new band for her, and this was only the second gig. The set up was the current norm, with drums extreme stage left facing in, keyboards extreme right facing in, and guitar and bass at the back. Guitar was the only one standing, and with no music stand. It was immediately obvious that the band were top class in all departments.
They were the quietest band I’ve seen too, especially at the beginning on Ray Charles’ Hallelujah I Love Him So in a jazzy laidback version with brushes on drums, and the vocal mic mixed loud in proportion.
The one I’d been most hoping to hear, Superstar came next. She co-wrote it, though the credits read Delaney Bramlett, Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell. It was a B-side which became famous when Rita sang it on the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and album. She recounted its origins … it dates to Eric Clapton wanting to join Delaney & Bonney when Rita was a member. She told the story of how Eric promised the earth to a long series of starstruck groupies, which inspired the tale … the original title was Groupie Song (Superstar). The tale was told so well, that it augurs great things for her new autobiography Delta Lady which she signed after the gig. And yes, I bought one. Tonight Superstar had a long and impressive bass guitar solo.
She said she would be doing two Allen Toussaint songs, and next up was Basic Lady from 1975’s Southern Nights, an album I was delighted to find on vinyl a few weeks ago. Stuart’s guitar was starting to make its presence felt in the rhythm.
She praised Ry Cooder’s musical archaeology and led into Tattler – it’s believed to originate with Washington Phillips, but it’s possibly “Trad. Arranged by”. Whatever, it’s closely associated with Ry Cooder since Paradise & Lunch (1974). It was unexpected, it’s a song I love, and the guitar playing was great.
The second Allen Toussaint number was Shoo-Rah Shoo-Rah, Its origin was an album produced by Toussaint for Frankie Miller, High Life. However, the version that was a hit was by Betty Wright. Betty Wright’s version would be on a list of my ten all-time favourite soul numbers, and it’s one I rarely go more than a couple of weeks without playing, especially in the car and loud, from a playlist that goes on to Private Number and Tramp. That’s taken off the 45 rpm single – neither the LP or single sound as good. Rita Coolidge did it much more smoothly, without Betty Wright’s dynamics. I was just thrilled to hear it live at all, though it won’t ever touch Betty Wright for me. I just realized we’d had three songs in a row from 1974 to 1975.
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight by Bob Dylan took us a few years earlier. Female singers do this song especially well- Rita Coolidge has it on several compilations, and Cher did another good cover.
We were into the Kris Kristofferson section. Late Again (Getting’ Over You) was another from 1974, from Spooky Lady’s Sideshow, which was a Kristofferson solo release bookended by albums with Rita Coolidge. The second was Who’s To Bless and Who’s To Blame (1975) and she sang backing vocals on the original, then she sang lead on her Anytime … Anywhere LP in 1977..
As she said, the hit duets with Kristofferson were a problem, but Hamish Stuart sang Lovin’ Arms with her, and in fact he started the song off. Always a great singer. The song was written by Tom Jans. Kris and Rita made it famous. Elvis did it. Etta James did it. The Dixie Chicks did it, but the version I’m most familiar with is Millie Jackson’s full-throated soul version which opened Still Caught Up and I’m beginning to think when you decide on a setlist, a period might loom strongest in your mind, and it’s definitely “early marriage to Kris” tonight. 1975 again. I was also delighted with the choice of covers tonight.
Unusually I Can’t Stand The Rain had no introduction. Ann Peebles in the year … yes, 1973, though the automatic disco beat of Eruption’s later cover might come to mind. Not here. It’s got an Average White Band feel in the backing anyway, and was perfectly taken.
We’re All Alone always surprises me. It was her biggest UK hit (#6 in 1977). This Boz Scaggs song (from Silk Degrees) sounds more like The Carpenters than the Carpenters, right down to he siding bass entry and the drum flourish. They once played it on the radio quiz on Radio Two, and the contestant guessed it was The Carpenters. I just nodded in agreement before the DJ reminded me it was Rita Coolidge. The Carpenters covered her Superstar, so the influence would be Rita to them, not vice versa! It got that instant recognition applause as she launched into it.
No intro again and a sharp change of style for Albert King’s Born Under A Bad Sign.
There was audience participation for Fever with everyone snapping fingers along with Rita before first the bass guitar, then the band came in. She said the Peggy Lee version was one of the first songs she fell in love with.
The Temptations The Way You Do The Things You Do (Smokey Robinson, Bobby Rogers) was a US Top Twenty hit and a British hit for her. The album was Anytime … Anywhere with an astonishing start to side one, with three songs in a row that were hits, and all three were done tonight. It opened with (Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher), then The Way You Do The Things You do was track 2, and We’re All Alone was track 3. The other side had Who’s To Bless and Who’s To Blame (as well as Words, which was a UK #25 hit, and Southern Lady).
There was a segue into How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) so we had a Tamla Motown medley. This Holland-Dozier-Holland song was first recorded by Marvin Gaye. She used the song as an opportunity to introduce the band, and each had a longish solo party piece … probably a minute each. it all went back to the How Sweet It Is rhythm, and they went fully back to the song at the end.
The Cherokee National Anthem was sung in Cherokee, and has the melody of Amazing Grace. She introduced it by talking about the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. It was the link to Agrigento and the Music For The Native Americans project. I asked her about it at the book signing. She said they didn’t know who owned the rights to all those extracts from the Italian TV broadcast, but recalled it as one of the best shows she had been involved in … which is saying something after her career. She said after they came off stage, Robbie Robertson had come back and told them in all seriousness that they were now expected to go back out and repeat the show. He was joking. What bugs me is that this was a show they could have toured worldwide to great acclaim. A shame.
(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher was the obvious set ender.
The encores were another hit for her, Carole Bayer Sager’s I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love and a poppy take on Clyde McPhatter’s Lover Please, which she recorded with Kris Kristofferson in 1974. Billy Swan wrote it, but Clyde McPhatter had the 1962 hit..
I always wake up with an ear worm playing in my head after a concert, and it was I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love this time.
Stuff I wanted to hear but didn’t? Well, my first four choices all got done. I’d have liked Boz Scaggs’ Slow Dancer, but was so happy to get Tatler, Shoo Rah Shoo Rah, Basic Lady and Lovin’ Arms (none of which I was expecting) that I was delighted.
An excellent show. First rate band. Good sound balance throughout. She had signs of a cough between songs but it didn’t affect her vocals at all. A lovely Delta lady.
The April 2016 autobiography
IAN W. BROWN
A Day With No Rain
Pearls and Oyster Shells
Everyday’s A Schoolday
I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)
Ian W Brown (NOT the Stone Roses Ian Brown) is a successful songwriter who hadn’t any records out under his own name until Me Too – just issued online. His songs are in Dreamboats and Petticoats and have been recorded by artists as diverse as Fisherman’s Friends, Jason Donovan, Show of Hands, Graham Gouldman and Meryl Streep. He’s local to the area too. He also writes as Tom Gilbert. I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair) was recorded by Sandi Thom, and was a UK #1 hit in 2005., so bizarrely he had had the biggest UK hit of anyone on the stage, though I’d bet the Average White Band’s #6 hit with Pick Up The Pieces or Rita Coolidge’s We Are Alone sold a lot more copies … 1973 and 1977 v 2005.
He’s a fine singer-songwriter with an excellent line in chat, telling the stories behind his songs. I took to Pearls and Oyster Shells on the joys of vinyl and slipping a record out of its sleeve. He didn’t play guitar in that, just sang and patted a rhythm on the body.
For Me Too he used a resonator guitar and slide, and it’s based on having the same name as a famous person, as he does with Ian Brown of Stone Roses. Excellent very funny lyrics.
Aunt Marjorie is a touching and true personal tale about a great aunt who was a spinster after the GreatV War. They used to joke she had never been kissed, only to discover she had given away a daughter conceived just before the war ended.
He finished with his #1 hit, the tale of 1969 and 1977. A very well-received and enjoyable support set. I just wish he’d had a CD on sale.