TICKETS TORN IN HALF:August 31,1996: HOUSE OF BLUES BARNBURNER TOUR featuring JOE COCKER, BUDDY GUY, THE RADIATORS,The FABULOUS T-BIRDS and THE GALES BROTHERS@Jones Beach,Wantagh,NY
I really don’t know if it makes any sense but I was willing to sit through ALL the other bands AND stay for Joe Cocker, for a few songs, just to see BUDDY GUY again. The man is a show unto himself and well worth the price of admission. Story goes: a woman at work takes the morning off, arrives early to get a numbered bracelet to wait in a second holding area to purchase tickets for some/all of the tickets available for the summer series at Jones Beach. I give her my cash and with specific instructions,”only buy me tickets if they are on the floor AND real, real close”. Bingo, I’m in.
THE GALES BROTHERS opened in the late afternoon to a sparse crowd of about 300. What a shame as they were entertaining.The Fabulous Thunderbirds, this being 1996 many moons after Jimmie Vaughn and Duke Robillard, should rebrand as THE THUNDERBIRDS with KIM WILSON. THE RADIATORS are a funky, as in very funky, NEW ORLEANS ensemble that rocked the joint. The crowd was growing by the minute and with each song the applause got louder. The sun was going down as BUDDY GUY hit the stage and before he was done the place was standing and rockin’. Buddy made his venture out into the crowd and slipped pass me, an aisle seat about 14 rows back. He stopped, saw me nod, and played a few licks as if just for my enjoyment. WOW, he was great.
“We’re going to make it so funky you can smell it,” the Chicago bluesman promised early on, standing in front of the logo of the tour’s sponsor, the House of Blues.
Guy showed himself a master of extremes, unafraid to bring the volume of his lead-playing to a level that was barely audible before returning to his ecstatic, tortured leads. If his set’s pacing was sometimes jarring, and perhaps too generous with solos from band members, it was always redeemed by the playing. Guy strolled deep into the crowd, posed for a snapshot and found a seat, all while playing a euphoric succession of mournful, inspirational notes.
After that, even an eccentric blues-pop shouter like headliner Joe Cocker was left in a compromised position. Cocker was at his best with the slowest material, ballads flavored with a touch of gospel, his vocals pushed to the edge of tears. This unlikely British ’60s hit maker was a frequent presence on the charts up through the late ’80s. Unfortunately for Cocker, the night’s best moments were overwhelmingly with the old hits, from his epic version of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends” to the ’80s innuendo of “You Can Leave Your Hat On.”
AMEN to that, Brother.