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Live Review
Roomful of Blues
@ T.B. Sheldon Theatre, Red Wing, February 12, 1999
By Ann Wickstrom
Roomful of Blues
Jan. 29, 1999
Photo © 1999 Ann Wickstrom
All rights reserved
It was Valentine's weekend and the lovebirds were flocking to the Sheldon Theatre. What better place to spend an evening than in this beautiful, stately old theatre in this quaint, historic town - and with the swinginest band in the land to boot.

The seats were plush red velvet, the stage enormous. And, since the stage was very DEEP, we were free to dance ON STAGE, BEHIND the band! By the start of the second half of the show, it was packed back there. It was quite a sight to behold and an interesting perspective, whether you were in your seat watching the band with the backdrop of twirling, dipping couples or whether you were one of those dancing and watching the band from behind with the audience as the backdrop.

All was not perfect at the T.B. Sheldon Theatre this night, though. Yup, you got it - the sound was a mess. After an opening instrumental, Roomful's "new" singer slid out from the wings. Mac Odom is an entirely different vocalist than former front man Sugar Ray Norcia. At 6'4", Odom glides smoothly around the stage and has more of an R&B style as opposed to Norcia's more traditional bluesy delivery. His range is fantastic. But after just a few bars of "She's Mine" from the latest Roomful release, "There Goes the Neighborhood", it was clear that things weren't clear. The sound in general just wasn't enough, you couldn't hear the keyboards at all, and Mac's vocals were barely distinguishable. He was using a wireless mic and it was weak and fuzzy.

The band played nearly every song from the new CD (which by the way is a gem), including "I Smell Trouble" with a killer solo from guitarist Chris Vachon. "Just Like Dynamite" got the dancers going, and Percy Mayfield's "Lost Mind" was a big hit. After Odom's "Backseat Blues", they took a break, and during the intermission the sound man was swamped with complaints. They checked the batteries in the wireless mic and discovered that they were pretty much fried. It struck me as kind of odd that everyone but the band could tell something was wrong. After Odom switched to a wired mic for the second half, the vocals improved tremendously but the overall sound never did get any better. The PA just wasn't cutting it (no reflection on the band whatsoever).

Roomful stripped down to just guitar, bass and drums for "We Be Three" from the "Under One Roof" CD. Despite the fact that the Roomful horns are the greatest, I really loved this raw little power trio doing the Stevie Ray-ish instrumental. Vachon has ALL the chops, and he is a master when it comes to dynamics. T-A-S-T-Y. Also deserving of a special mention is trombone man John Wolf. At one point he took such a killer solo that the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Despite the fact that I just couldn't get beyond the sound problems at this show, it cannot be denied that Roomful of Blues is probably the most professional and entertaining blues act on the road today. And since they're always ON the road, well , hey - there's always next time!

This review is copyright © 1999 by Ann Wickstrom and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.

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