These articles originally appeared in the 1.16.14 issue of Metroland
One of the
many great things about Club Helsinki is its ability get folks to play who have
no business playing a club.
Such is the
case with Bettye Lavette, who while is often categorized as a blues singer, is
to my ears one of the best soul singers on the planet.
At once gracious,
dignified, and profoundly raw and funky, Lavette and her ace four-piece band
opened with a beguiling cover of the Beatles’ “The Word” (I didn’t recognize it
until the very end) and then laid out 75 minutes of absolute magic.
Looking, moving, and sounding decades younger
than her 68 years, she sings as though possessed, as if every cell of her body
is feeling and interpreting every word, every nuance of her rich catalog.
As she said, “I’m more of a song interpreter
than a mellifluous singer.”
interpretations... “Here’s a song that’s most commonly associated with
Chevrolet pickup trucks” she deadpanned.
Half-way through the first verse of “Like A Rock” Bob Seger’s original
faded entirely from memory.
have well been doing an entirely different, and infinitely richer song.
She did back-to-back Neil Young tunes,
“Everybody Knows This Ain’t Nowhere” (!!!) and a hushed, ethereal “Heart of
I saw her a
year and a half ago and was struck that she sang nothing from her prolific early
career—as she explained Saturday “I didn’t play those songs for a long time
because you all didn’t buy them, so I figured you all didn’t like ‘em.
Then I realized I recorded them because I
liked ‘em” and she proceeded to sing her bouncy, saucy 1962 single “My Man He’s
a Lovin’ Man”.
the set with her epic version of the Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me”, turning the
blowhard standard into something gut-wrenching and profound (If you haven’t
seen her Kennedy Center Honors performance of this, go to YouTube right now and
The entire room may as well have been one big
TROMBONE SHORTY AND ORLEANS AVENUE
really just stop there.
years ago I caught Trombone Shorty opening for Bootsy Collins at the Montreal
I didn’t know anything
At the time, I wrote “Trombone Shorty nee
Troy Andrews is hands down the most
incredible individual performer I have ever seen.”
everybody knows music writers have serious hyperbole issues.
Well, after seeing Shorty & band again
Sunday night, I emphatically reaffirm the above ridiculous statement.
He really is.
killer band came out and laid down some killer metal-funk.
Sarge leaned over and said “I half expect to
see Rob Halford come out on a Harley.”
Then Shorty comes skipping out waiving his trombone in one hand and his
trumpet in the other.
And the games
began. The show started at this intensity level way up there
and then got more intense.
And more intense.
I’ve been to a lot of shows at The Egg, and
I’ve never seen an audience there go this bonkers.
I’m talking apeshit bonkers here, a good
three generations of folks going crazy, for the whole damn show.
Nods to Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway.
Sometimes stacked up in a matter of
Sometimes all at once.
Staggering and mind-blowing.
And plenty loud.
Last time I saw him he did a circular breathing thing on the trumpet,
holding a note for several minutes.
time he did it on the freakin’
Dude’s gonna hurt himself.
a number of solos on his horns that were complex, sophisticated, and
He sings like an angel.
He’s got the coolest moves: his James Brown
shimmy- turned-moonwalk was one of many bring-the-house-down moments.
He was generous with his shaggy, muscular
band (drums, bass, guitar and two saxes) who all got plenty of star-turns and
who were, to a man, on time.
ended with the entire band bashing out a huge second-line beat on the
It was stupid, fun, and oh so