You have to love concerts at the Zoo Ampitheatre. Great surroundings, great sound, and - on this late summer evening - perfect weather. The night was still but the crowd was not. This was one of the wildest groups I've ever seen, full of party animals!
Chicago's Dave Specter & the Bluebirds opened the show with a thirty-minute all-instrumental set. This was actually the band I came to hear, and I could have listened to their jazzy groove all night. Specter often works with a singer but the instrumental format really seems to be his forte. With former Lonnie Brooks band members Rob Waters and Harlan Tursen (keys and bass, respectively), and drummer Mark Fornek (ex-Jimmy Rogers), the Bluebirds locked right in for a classy set of jazzy blues.
They played "Sweet Serenity," a song Specter penned with vocalist/harp man Tad Robinson that appeared on Specter's 1994 release Blueplicity. They also did Albert Collins' "Tremble" and Specter's own "Wind Chill," a very cool tune that has long been a favorite of mine and reminds me of Ronnie Earl's "Akos." In fact, a lot of what Specter does is similar to the style and the kind of material Mr. Earl has been doing for the last five years or so. No other players have really thrown their hat into that particular ring. You can find "Wind Chill" on Specter's Bluebird Blues, his 1991 Delmark debut featuring Earl and vocalist Barkin' Bill Smith.
Waters really tore it up on his Hammond on "Boss Funk," a tune from 1998's Blues Spoken Here with singer Lenny Lynn. Other notable moments included a slow blues with a neat key change (from C to A for those of you who care to know!) and Bill Doggett's "Hold It," a song many would recognize as a tune that bands frequently use when going into a break. Look for a possible twin cities appearance by Specter in early December. Check his web site at www.dw2.com/bluespecter/
Tab Benoit put on a great show but it was nearly identical to the one I saw the week before at the Bayfront Blues Festival (see September TCBN). He was, however, sounding much better at the zoo and played with more focus and precision. One difference in this show was the inclusion of a New Orleans medley (Jambalaya, Iko Iko, etc.)
Photo © 1999 Ray Stiles
All rights reserved
Early in the show he was making it clear to everyone that his name is Tab (not Tad, not Ted, not Chad, etc.). Someone in the audience shouted out something to the effect that we would just call him "Larry" to avoid confusion. After his "last" song, the entire crowd started chanting "Larry! Larry! Larry!" I think he thought we were nuts! With that he proceeded to let loose with a super-fast encore tune and, as he broke his FIFTH string of the night, said "I can't boogie no more ya'll!"
This review is copyright © 1999 by Ann Wickstrom, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.