Hot Tuna 25, 2007
The Acoustic Trio
Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady
& Barry Mitterhoff
The Gothic Theater
Saturday, July 14, 2007
1. Blue Railroad Train
2. Search My Heart
3. I’ll Let You Know Before I Leave
4. How Long Blues
5. There’s A Table Sitting In Heaven
6. Bread Line Blues
7. Serpent Of Dreams
8. Heart Temporary
9. Sea Child
10. Barbeque King
11. Red River Blues
1. Hesitation Blues
2. Late Breaking News
3. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out
4. Living In the Moment
5. I See The Light
6. Come Back Baby
7. The Terrible Operation
8. Good Shepherd
9. Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?
11. I Know You Rider
12. More Than My Old Guitar
13. Just Because
14. Encore: Roads & Roads &
The end of an acoustic tour that saw the trio visit Alaska, then trek down to Salt Lake, then Telluride, then the Gothic.
The trio was -- to use a phrase from one of my old Mass. friends -- crisp as a cuke! Another reason to enjoy this outing: A fine mixing numerous "new" songs (via Stars In My Crown) with numerous nuggets and the tried-and trie.
The 70-minute first set started with a rumbling "Blue Railroad Train" where Jorma and Barry traded leads and comps, with Jack's bass filling in the remaining spaces.
For me, Barry Mitterhoff has been a true gem playing with Jorma from day one, and it was cool that after the MC introduced the band as "Jorma and Jack", Jorma immediately introduced Barry! Way to go, Jorma, because as far as I am concerned, Barry is an essential part of today's Hot Tuna. When he's not playing hot licks without showing off, he always complements Jorma with Jack with just the right phrasing.
For a Tuna fan, the triplet of "Search My Heart", the tasty-as-shit "I'll Let You Know Before I Leave" and the sheer comfort of "How Long Blues" is a treat on paper; and it was even better. Jorma's vocals were full and hearty, and the interplay was of inimitably high quality.
I was also hoping for "new" material, and I totally dug their friendly easy-going take on Rev. Gary Davis' "There's A Table Sitting In Heaven."
However, it was a Tuna nuggets first set, with a yummy "Serpent Of Dreams" and a baroque take of "Sea Child". That said, my favorite tune of the first was a playful & righteous "Barbeque King", Jorma's vocals containing a subtle amount of humor, but the playing and choice of notes from all three were as tasty as a plate full of Memphis beef ribs!
The 80-minute second set was simply killer. Before the set began, posthead and I happened to glance at the setlist. However, the trio veered away from it a handful of songs into the set, followed a few tunes, then veered away again. It was a good lesson re-inforced: It's not the setlist, but the playing and the vibe that matters.
After a typically delectible version of "Hesitation Blues", Jorma offered up the fun and bouncy "Late Breaking News", eschewing a nimble bass line from Mr. Casady that gave the tune both warmth and infectuousness.
For me, if there is a song that measures how well Jorma is playing, it is the gorgeous instrumental "Living In The Moment." In years past, I've seen Jorma struggle with the song, as its arrangement requires the man to fully go up and down the fretboard. Tonight, this version was exquisite, with gorgeous mandolin fills from Barry.
At this point, "Serpent Of Dreams" was on the setlist, but was already played. However, Jorma saw The Light, and the trio played a sprawling version with Harley-Davidson rumbling bass from Jack and intricate Jorma-and-Barry trade-offs.
Any seasoned Tuna fan knows that Jorma has played Lightnin' Hopkins' "Come Back Baby" from the get go. That said, this rendition clearly did not suck, with Barry's mandolin contributions adding a unique dimension that added to the deep blues feeling. It had been several years since I last caught "The Terrible Operation", and it was clear the three were having plenty of fun, with Jorma's casually playful vocals having that Bessie Smith edge.
But then there's "Good Shephard", where Jorma, Jack and Barry took us to The Other Shore. Jorma's vocals had the right amount of mumbling grit, and both Barry and Jack had ample room to stretch out. Barry's buildup in his solo was subtle, then blossomed like a red rose in bloom. Jack's solo was more subtle than usual, opting to explore a range of hushed dynamics before eventually giving way to that rumble Jack is so known for. Thirteen-plus minutes of sheer sweetness, marked by Jorma finger-pointing to both Barry & Jack afterwards.
It was back to the "new" tunes, with the fun & bouncy "Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown" releasing the right soupcon of positivity and plenty of fun. However, it was a genuine treat to hear Jorma's version of Pigpen's "Operator", which is faithful to the original version, but with that nice throaty Jorma edge. Great fills by both Barry and Jack too.
However, I had mentioned that the trio skipped away from their planned setlist, and one of the treats that resulted was a good old-fashioned knuckle-down wipe-the-shit-off-your-shoes rendition of "I Know You Rider." Jack's bass was rumbling like a Harley down route 66, Barry's mandolin soared like a flock of geese, and Jorma's guitar was the iron anchor that kept everything flowing like the St. Vrain River!
Jorma's posted setlist missed one song, a fine old-timey cover of Merle Haggard's "More Than My Old Guitar", with Jorma and Barry's no-frills harmonies augmenting the country feel. The set was capped by a roaring "Just Because", all three just letting it rip collectively.
While the original setlist listed "Water Song" for the encore, I would be a fool to complain with the selection of "Roads & Roads &" because the trio went with the moment instead of being scripted, and it was clear they wanted to maintain the uptempo feeling just one more time.
The only downer to the show was the crowd during the first set, as there were its share of talkers. Before the end of the first set before Barry started plugging the Hot Tuna goodies, he noted, "For those who are not talking." Of course, Jorma and Jack are grizzled old pros -- well, I should include Barry, but he doesn't strike me as "grizzled" -- and they handled it with aplomb.
Just another typical high quality evening with Jorma, Jack and Barry....once again, thank you, gentlemen and hope you all got home safe.
ok, posthead...let's read your take!
One other comment to add: Before "Red River Blues", the trio were joking, and Jack played the intro bass line to "White Rabbit." When it was Jack's turn to solo in "Red River Blues", he immediately ripped the "White Rabbit" bass line, with just that subtle arched eyebrow!
Now THAT'S a review! Well done.
Great review, thanks! Sounds like you hit an excellent show, although I can't think of an evening with those three that hasn't been so.
Damn, JJW, how am I supposed to follow these tidbits?
"the interplay was of inimitably high quality"
"eschewing a nimble bass line"
"releasing the right soupcon of positivity"
"the iron anchor that kept everything flowing like the St. Vrain River" (my personal favorite)
Seriously though, JJW very eloquently puts into words the vibe of the whole concert, so there is very little for me to add. He even remembered the "White Rabbit" teases! (which were priceless and delivered with impeccable timing by Mr. Casady).
However, I will mention one thought that crossed my mind after the show. Jorma, Jack and Barry played a song early ("... Before I Leave", maybe?) that took me to "that place", where you kind of lose track of everything around you except the music and the musicians. Now personally, I only get that feeling at REALLY good shows, and only maybe once or twice during a show. Well, Saturday night, Hot Tuna kept taking me to that place, with "Serpent Of Dreams", "Sea Child", "Living In The Moment", "Good Shepherd" and more. What's even more interesting to me is that usually I go to "that place" when I hear songs that I am familiar with or have emotional attachement to. Yet here I was at only my second Hot Tuna show, without a single release in my collection, with them playing maybe two of the songs I had on my wish list, and I was still dialled in and connected like I had been a fan for life.
That is the beauty of music and talented musicians to me, to be able to take you to "that place" when you least expect it, and without any real effort on my part other than listening to the music. Jorma said at one point, "next time we'll bring the electric combo out here". Personally, I can't wait.
Yeah, Tuna's okay
nice review guys.
but there is NOTHING subtle about jack's arched eyebrow!
Damn, JJW, how am I supposed to follow these tidbits?
Very well, Mr. Posthead!
One of the best shows I've seen recently. Three full hours.
Alternately serene with pals around me, or ready to crack the idiot nearby who kept rambling verbally, then occasionally dropping to the ground, in a booze blackout. Dead ringer for Kurt Vonnegut, visually.
When it was suggested that perhaps he needed to be escorted out, a 'friend' of the blackouter tried the even look while repeating (about 6-7 times) 'He's okay, man. He's all right." Etc.
The talking midget was close to being taken out; he had no idea. I finally asked if the blackouter was, say, training for the Tour de France... Next time he crumbled, another 'friend' took him out and didn't return.
All in all, however, despite this sordid detail, the Gothic crowd came through on the vibe.
Tuna was the best I've ever seen or heard them. They've got the volume down markedly, even from past acoustic shows. It worked perfectly.
Next show I'm bringing the Taser...
Phil, one of these days, we gotta meet up and say "howdy"...
Mr. John Wood,
I'm around. We'll be at Tinsley Ellis/Walnut Room Thursday, Dickie Betts/Cervantes on Monday, and Dr. John/Cervantes on Aug. 18, the day after my 50th.
I'll be the 6'1", 185 lb guy with modest length, dirty blond/brown hair and goatee and sunglasses, which disguise the tombstone eyes and crow's feet.
Feeling pretty good after all those miles. Must be the oil changes.
John, if you're making these upcoming shows, give a shout and I'll stand ya to a beer. The upcoming Phil shows will be tougher, as we tend to get into a stance.
Do you play bass by any chance? Or know someone who's looking to play bass locally? We're lookin'...
John, I believe I'm 'in the book'... feel free to give a ring to claim that brewskie at an upcoming show... P