Just by chance, in less than two weeks, I had the opportunity to see the legendary Roomful of Blues twice, 1600 miles apart! My luck was uncanny, given the usual scenario where I will miss a band that I really want to see by having to travel out of town, or having to return home at precisely the wrong time.
My double dose of Roomful of Blues began in Tampa, Florida where I was lucky enough to see the band in one of the best venues in the Tampa Bay Area, Skipper's Smokehouse. Skipper's has great food and one of the nicest outdoor stage setups for patrons to listen to great music from a variety of genres. Opening for Roomful of Blues at Skipper's was a local act, Jennifer and the Venturas. The band opened with a nice set that included a number of jazz, swing, country and torch songs featuring their sweet-voiced diva, Jennifer Sweat backed by the Venturas, who on this particular evening included a special guest appearance by local harp master, T. C. Carr. The band was tight and Jennifer Sweat was as nice to look at as she was to listen to.
Following a short break, the legendary Roomful of Blues made their way to the stage. Led by original members Bob Enos and Rich Lataille, Roomful has been an active part of the blues scene since the late 1960's. Although the lineup has changed many times over the years, the band has managed to keep their signature sound well-preserved for fans, old and new. The show at Skipper's included many songs from their latest release on Alligator Records, That's Right!, combined with a few old favorites from the past. Although the band sported several new members since their last studio recording on Bullseye, Watch You When You Go, probably the most notable change was new singer Mark DuFresne, who replaced previous vocalist, Mac Odom. DuFresne demonstrated a fine vocal style that fit right in with the signature Roomful of Blues style. Other new band members included Mark Stevens on keyboards; Brad Hallen on bass; Jason Corbiere on drums; and Mark Earley on baritone and tenor sax. Hallen and Corbiere provided a strong backbeat for the blistering horns and the fine guitar provided by long time member Chris Vachon, while Stevens shined on keyboards throughout the show. All in all, the Skipper's show represented a great evening outside in Tampa, Florida, listening to some great music.
Less than two weeks later, I was out again to see Roomful of Blues, this time closer to home at the Star Bar & Grill in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. Opening for this show was local music personality Kurt Jorgenson, with three other members of his regular band. Led by guitarist/vocalist Kurt Jorgenson, the "small" version of the band played an hour long set of fine original material that, while not particularly bluesy, was well done and offered a nice opening for my second dose of Roomful of Blues.
Rather than get into any additional detail on Roomful's show at the Star Bar, suffice it to say that from a set point of view, was identical to the Tampa show. Happily, the band's energy during the Star Bar performance was still great, even after over 1600 miles on a bus, performing several shows in between my opportunities to listen to the band. My wife who had not gotten to hear Roomful in Tampa, loved the show as well and indicated that next time the band was in town, we definitely had to go again! It was a second great night of music that was as fresh as it was when I heard it 12 days earlier.
If you want to learn more about the band or check our their upcoming performances across the country, visit their website at www.roomful.com.
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