After "losing" this show in the entertainment information maze that is Las Vegas,
my friend Sean (a blues neophyte) and I traveled to Club Madrid at the Sunset Station
Casino in Henderson, Nevada, a Las Vegas suburb, to see Big Bill Morganfield backed by the Bob Margolin Band. The show was originally scheduled at another Las Vegas hotel, but was moved to Club Madrid due to a remodeling project at the original location.
The combination of Morganfield and Margolin could not have been any more
ideal; the son of the immortal Muddy Waters, together with a Muddy Water's band
alumni guitarist. Margolin was a key member of the backing band on Big Bill's debut
CD, "Rising Son," while Big Bill made a guest appearance on Margolin's last CD, "Hold Me To It." I was particularly interested in listening to Morganfield to see if his late coming into a blues career would make any difference in the quality of the live product. I am glad to say that it didn't!
The Bob Margolin Band opened the show, sans Morganfield, with the title track
from his latest CD "Hold Me To It." Backed by Tad Walters on harp or bass guitar
(depending on the song) and Wes Johnson on drums, Margolin burned through the
opening number before laughingly notifying the audience that this was the only "happy" blues song that he would be playing before he started focusing on "death, drunkenness and other more depressing, but more appropriate, blues subjects." Not surprisingly, he followed with two more songs from "Hold Me To It," "Mean Old Chicago" (death) and "Slam Em Down" (drunkenness). To this point, Tad Walters had only performed on the harp, creating an interesting "thinner" sound through the elimination of the bass line.
When Big Bill Morganfield joined the band on stage, Walters shifted to bass
guitar. Morganfield opened his portion of the set with an original number entitled "Roll
With Me." One of the best parts of the show was the fact that Morganfield was not
afraid to venture beyond the songlist from his debut CD, "Rising Son." To me this
demonstrated that Big Bill is not locked into just his recorded work. He is a very clean guitarist and slide player with a voice that definitely resembles his famous father. This fact was quite apparent when Morganfield performed "Champagne and Reefer" and "The Same Thing," two songs from his fathers songlist. During the first set Morganfield played one of my favorite songs from his CD, "Dead Ass Broke." He prefaced the song with a couple of comments about what an appropriate song it was to play in Las Vegas.
The second set of the evening was billed by Bob Margolin as "the final set of a
very long tour." He also let everyone know that the band planned on having a little fun
to close out the tour. With this promise in mind, the second set opened with Tad
Walters on guitar and Margolin on bass for a couple of songs including "Mama Talk To Your Daughter." This was followed by a shift to Walters on bass, Margolin on guitar and a guest appearance by guitarist Scott Cable, a friend of Margolin. Things got especially exciting when Margolin and Cable started trading licks on "Further On Up The Road."
The mood of the second set changed again when Morganfield returned to the
stage to play a couple of delta style numbers, accompanied only by Walters and
Johnson. The two originals, "Dead and Gone" and "Standing At The Crossroads,"
demonstrated yet another dimension of Morganfield's skills.
The set culminated with several interesting shifts for the remaining songs. On
"Screamin' and Cryin'," Margolin played bass, Walters played harp and Morganfield
remained on guitar. For "Caldonia," Margolin moved back to guitar and Morganfield
took over on bass. The changes were dizzying, but they really made the set
The evening ended with Morganfield fronting the Bob Margolin Band on vocals
for the Muddy Water's classic, "I Got My Mojo Working." During this song, as well as several others during the evening, Big Bill Morganfield definitely sounded like his
famous father. Even though it made me kind of sad that I was never able to see Muddy Water's perform live, I was glad that Big Bill Morganfield decided to "walk in his father's shoes." His show at Club Madrid made it clear that he is certainly being true to his father's memory.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.