In the weeks leading up to this show it seemed unclear as to who would be the headliner and who would open. As it turned out, Coco played first, but it certainly could have gone either way. These guys are both "monsters."
It was yet another perfect night at the zoo. Thanks to Sue McClean & Associates, Compass Entertainment, and Northwest Airlines for making these wonderful summer concerts happen at such a great venue. It was hot, humid and sunny, but Coco still started off with the song he’s been opening with for the last few years, the swingin’ instrumental "Cool Like Dat." He was accompanied by longtime keyboard player Benny Yee as well as Steve Evans on bass and Randy Hayes on drums. Montoya played six songs from his latest release, "Suspicion", including the R & B tune "What I Know Now." He introduced "Casting My Spell" by explaining that he learned it as a kid while watching the Johnny Otis show when he was growing up in L.A.. This particular song doesn’t appeal to me, mostly because the repetitive meter of the lyrics causes the otherwise-digable New Orleans groove to get old before it really even gets going.
Coco spoke of his history and friendship with Albert Collins. After Yee took a solo, Coco played a Collins-style guitar break in "You Didn’t Think About That". He really showed the crowd what he was all about as his guitar went from a hushed solo to a nasty sting. He also dedicated "Nothing But Love" to Collins (as he promised himself he would do every time he played it) and told the crowd to "look straight up to heaven at Albert, cuz I KNOW he’s listening!" In the middle of his solo on that one he stepped forward and said (with no mic), "Awww I wish Albert was here now!" Things got pretty spiritual for a while there.
"Get My Ass In Gear" was to be his last song, but the crowd—most of whom seemed largely unfamiliar with him before the show—wouldn’t hear of it. He closed with another R & B tune, "I Need Your Love in My Life."
After his set, Coco told me he was going to come out and jam with Thackery later. The two are good friends but their touring schedules don’t allow them to see each other very often, so this would have been a rare treat that a lot of us were hoping for. But, unaware of his intentions, the crew tore his rig down when he wasn’t looking. Thackery offered one of his amps, but Coco refused to use it and left in a huge huff. Talk about a major bummer!
Like Montoya, Thackery has been starting out with the same instrumental for several years. Jimmy’s signature opening tune is Jimmy McGriff’s instrumental "All About My Girl". With Jimmy and drummer Mark Stutso wearing their Hawaiian shirts and geese flying overhead, daylight quickly faded into night and the stage lights spread a multi-colored glow over the band, which also includes ex-Luther Allison bassist Ken Faltinson and sax man Jimmy Carpenter.
They played a few new songs, which will be on their forthcoming Blind Pig release, tentatively titled "Sinner Street". The CD is scheduled for a mid-September release. "Detroit Iron" is a new rocker sung by Stutso. He also handled the vocals on "Mercury Blues", "Drive to Survive", and the ballad "That’s How I Feel." Stutso seems to be turning more and more heads with his FANTASTIC voice, and his stick work remains unrivaled. It’s not often you see a blues drummer singing lead, and how he can do both as well as he does is amazing.
Thackery did not disappoint either (does he EVER?). It should be noted that he had two prized possessions—his Strats—stolen in Kansas City in June. However, he quickly got one back since the brilliant thief unloaded it at a nearby pawnshop. Jimmy was obviously very happy to get it back and is confident that he’ll have the other one before long.
Thackery is popular everywhere he goes, but seems to have a special bond with his Twin Cities fans. It’s always a blast to witness the train wreck force of his guitar playing and yet marvel at how he seems to extract it in such an effortless manner. Playing with one hand and playing with his tongue seem to come as easily to him as breathing. He swings and shuffles and rocks out with equal control and finesse. He does not let up, he does not falter, and he always, always leaves you wanting more.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Ann Wickstrom, 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.