The anticipation of this show was unlike anything I've seen in recent years. This show was the talk of the town for weeks, and it still is. Even before the show was final, the word hit the streets. Then, Dan & Jim hit the airwaves and the talk shows for two straight weeks. It seemed like everywhere we went, everyone knew about it.
No one had heard much about Belushi and Aykroyd's "new" act in the preceding weeks. Their new CD "Big Men, Big Music" had pretty much slipped into the stores with very little fanfare. That's because they chose to put this CD out on their own, under their own record label; Have Love Records. No major label, no major deal. That's the way they like it. Dan bragged up that very fact on the talk shows that they did, saying that they encouraged everyone to 'burn it, download it, share it". The CD represents years of searching for material by Aykroyd and Belushi. In the band's official press release for the CD, Belushi says "The criteria were songs with a certain wryness and humor linked to up sounding beats and tempos and opportunities where we can feature the talents in our all star master show band." Aykroyd adds "we are like the gentle merchants in a market, merely existing to present our glistening wares which are our players and these classic American songs."
It's not a Blues Brothers revival. It's their love of the music that drives this act. Aykroyd and Belushi still manage to do about 50 shows a year, even though both of their schedules are pretty full. Aykroyd is still busy making movies, opening new House Of Blues clubs and hosting his House Of Blues Radio Hour, which is in it's tenth year. Belushi still does quite a few dates a year with his own band "The Sacred Hearts", besides putting in a full schedule on his new hit television sitcom "According To Jim'.
Knowing Lamont's long history with Aykroyd, Minnesota Music Café owners Billy Larson and Karen Palm were interested in having us appear on the bill. The promoter also liked the idea. Thanks Billy and Karen. We were scheduled to play The Narrows in Navarre that night, but the owners were kind enough to let us switch our calendar and reschedule our date. Even Dan was excited about having us on the show. He has always credited Pat Hayes and his brother Larry for being major influences of the Blues Brothers. Dan went on KQRS and was gracious enough to compliment Pat Hayes and Lamont Cranston over and over again. We heard he even mentioned us on Regis & Kelly. Thanks Dan.
The block party setting worked out great. The weather held out. The festival stage was set to the back of the parking lot with the St. Paul skyline as a backdrop. They had some of the adjoining neighborhood streets blocked off, so it was roomy and had easy access. I never even heard one person complain about parking. The gates opened at 5:00 and the people were lined up down the block waiting to get in. For St. Paul's sake, I hope this turns into an annual event for MMC.
The "Revue" is traveling in style on this tour in three custom tour buses. After a long afternoon at the Mall Of America signing autographs and playing a few tunes, the tour buses started to roll in at about 4:00.
Tony Sims kicked off the show at 6:00. The crowd was filing in fast and Tony kept the excitement level high as he ran through his own unique rock-blues style of selections. It's easy to see why Tony is such a favorite at MMC. He had the crowd movin' and groovin' and diggin' every note.
Billy's band Raggs played inside the club during all of the change over breaks and at the end of the night after the festival wound down at 12:00. They kept the crowd tapping their toes all night. It was almost as busy inside as it was outside. The club also had a video feed playing on the big screen of the festival stage outside.
Lamont Cranston took the stage at about 8:00. Front man Pat Hayes instantly turned it up a notch with a few Cranston favorites, including "Blinded" and "Hold On". Next, Hayes invited up local blues singer Lisa Wenger to belt out a tune. She did a killer version of Dorthy LaBostrie's "You Can Have My Husband." The crowd loved it. After a few smokin' guitar solos by Ted Larsen and some killer sax solos by Jim Greenwell, Hayes switched to the harp and kicked into another signature Cranston tune, "Streets Around Here", which was written by Pat and Larry back in the 80's (one of Aykroyd's favorites). Right about this time, there was a huge roar in the crowd. No, not for the Cranstons. It was Belushi & Aykroyd making their grand entrance, each on a Harley Davidson, with a police escort led by St. Paul Chief Of Police William Finney. They entered along the side street, through the crowd and made their way to the backstage area.
Dan and Jim got off of their Harleys, greeted a few fans and immediately headed backstage to watch the rest of the Cranston's set. Their tour manager told me that they specifically planned their whole schedule around getting to the gig in time to catch a lot of the Cranston's set. We had time to chat, say hello and catch up a little once again. It had been a few years since we had seen Dan and Jim. The band kicked into their 80's radio hit, "Upper Mississippi Shakedown" to close out the set. The crowd wasn't quite ready to quit and kept screaming for an encore, so Hayes jumped up and went right into the Cranston classic "E Jam". Dan and Jim had a great time and really dug the show. Jim was really itching to hop up onto the stage and join in. I told them that they should just jump up there, the crowd would love it, but Dan said that they were going to wait and instead, they were going to get Pat up with them at the end of the show to jam. He was excited about being able to do that together once again.
Time for the set change. Pat finally got to say hello before Dan and Jim had to run off to their tour bus to get ready for their show. Before we knew it, they were ready. Randy Levy fired off the introduction, "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Have Love Will Travel Revue featuring Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd". The band hit the stage and the crowd went nuts. This new 12-piece band was killer. 4 Grammy winners and a Hall Of Famer (Julie Delgado of the Fifth Dimension). Johnny Lee Schell and J.J. Holiday on guitars, Jimmie Wood on harmonica, Larry Lerma on bass, Tony Braunagel on drums, Glen Clark on keyboards, Joe Sublett on sax, Darrell Leonard on trumpet, Johnny Rubano on trumpet and vocalist Julie Delgado.
The band kicked right into one song after another. "All She Wants To Do Is Rock" by Wynonie Harris, "Greenbacks" by Ray Charles, "Swinging Party" by Lowell Fulsom, "Driving Wheel" by Roosevelt Sykes and "Polk Salad Annie" by Tony Joe White were all favorites. Aykroyd got a rise out of the crowd when he said, "How about those Cranstons." Next, was a mighty fine version of The Outsider's classic "Time Won't Let Me", with Dan and Jim trading off singing a verse or two each. Then, Dan's singing intro kicked off their Richard Berry signature tune "Have Love Will Travel". Julie Delgado took center stage and belted out one of the most incredible versions of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" that I've ever heard.
They really had the crowd going. A couple of different times, they pulled up a line of dancing girls from the crowd and backstage. My daughter was lucky enough to be one of the ones who joined them on stage. They kicked into "300 Pounds Of Joy" by Willie Dixon and pulled up a pretty good size security guard onto the stage. They would sandwich him between them while dancing and changed the verses to "900 Pounds Of Joy". It was great. Dan called up Pat Hayes and once again plugged the Cranstons. They played the Junior Wells classic, "Messin' With The Kid", then Pat finished off a couple more with them before closing of the show. The crowd slowly filtered out. They didn't want to leave. It was all over too quick.
After the show Dan took a little time with the fans and once again, we had some time to talk. Jim spent a long time with the fans, talking, signing autographs and posing for pictures. Dan invited us back to the hotel when we were through packing up. Once we were done, we finally got a little more private time to visit and relax back at the bar at their hotel.
All in all, it was a great show. We had fun. Dan and Jim had a blast. We were all treated with great respect and the security and staff did a great job. Hats off to Billy, Karen, Rose Presents and the City Of St. Paul. Let's do it again!
CLICK HERE for pictures from the show by Sharon L. McGee-Wayne.
Above photos copyright 2003 by E. Bohrer (except Jim Belushi & Rico's daughter Emily by Rico Anderson)
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