Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hot Tuna @ The Calvin Theater, November 28th, 2009

Hot Tuna returned to town this past Saturday night for an acoustic show. This is the 5th time I've seen them and, as usual, I was delighted. All the more so because I was sitting in the 5th row, slightly off to stage left, so that I was staring straight ahead at Barry Mitterhoff, the multi-instrumentalist that Jorma and Jack having been playing with for the past 5 or 6 years. Boy is he good.

There was no opening act. The band hit the stage at about 8:10 and they left after their encore at about 11:10. In between, they played about two dozen songs, separated by a 30 minute intermission. So, the band was onstage for about 2.5 hours. It was clearly a bit chilly backstage, and maybe onstage too. Jack walked on rubbing his hands together and, in a clearly exaggerated way, rubbed the neck of his bass guitar with a cloth to warm it up. Jorma smiled at him as he did this. Jack has always been the showman of the band, hamming it up with winks and nods and occasional commentary.

I could hardly have been more satisfied by the performance. It opened with "Search My Heart," the same song they opened their Calvin show with last year. Here's the entire set, double-checked from Jorma's own website:
Set One:
1. "Search My Heart": This was recorded for their 1970 debut album, still my favorite album of theirs, and they opened their last Calvin show with this song as well. Sounded very good, slow and deliberate.
2. "There’s A Bright Side Somewhere": A Reverend Gary Davis song from Jorma's 2009 album, River of Time. Not one of my favorite of the Gary Davis songs the band does, but it sounded just fine.
3. "I’ll Let You Know Before I Leave": a nifty instrumental from Jorma's 1974 solo album, Quah. Featured some tasty playing from the two guitarists.
4. "More Than My Old Guitar": a Merle Haggard song that Jorma sang with Barry harmonizing. I like this one a lot.
5. "I See The Light": the highlight of the concert, just like it was at their Calvin show last year. The interplay between all three musicians is delicate one moment, sharp and aggressive the next, and the climax over the course of the last minute or so is incredible every time I hear it. A classic.
6. "Come Back Baby": a song that dates back to Jefferson Airplane days, although the version from this past weekend was slow and bluesy. Great solos from Jorma and Barry on this one.
7. "River Of Time": title track to the recent Jorma album. Very nice Jorma original.
8. "Breadline Blues": a song about the 1932 presidential election. Some great jamming here, and a false ending, prompting the audience to applaud, before the band starts up again with the final verse. Barry shone on this one.
9. "Hesitation Blues": there was some "hesitation" before playing the song, as Barry and Jorma appeared to disagree about what should come next. When Jorma announced this one, the audience exploded. This is also from the first Hot Tuna album, and it's one of the great ones. The instrumental section always smokes, and it sure did Saturday night.
10. "99 Year Blues": from 1972's Burgers. Jack's first bass solo of the night, and it was a dandy.
11. "I Know You Rider": from the first Tuna album. Better than the Grateful Dead's version. Or anyone else's.

I confess to having been pretty tired during the second set. Partly that had to do with not getting enough sleep the previous night. The intermission was about half an hour long. Too long, in my humble opinion. At any rate, I don't remember as many specifics as I probably should have noticed....

Set Two:
1. "Trouble In Mind": Hot Tuna recorded this for Live at Sweetwater (1993), and it's also on the new Jorma album. An excellent one.
2. "Things That Might Have Been": brand new Jorma song. I liked it.
3. "Cracks In The Finish": a Jorma original from River of Time. One of his better originals from recent albums.
4. "Full Go Round": a Roy Book Binder song from River of Time. A great one.
5. "How Long Blues": another from the first Hot Tuna album. There isn't a bad track on the first album, and I'm always excited to hear anything from it performed live.
6. "Serpent Of Dreams": another highlight of the concert. I love hearing the acoustic version of this song, and I'm thrilled that it's one of the songs from Hot Tuna's "Metal Years" (say, 1974-1978) that they continue to perform today. A touch of the psychedelic mixed in to the blues.
7. "The Terrible Operation"
8. "Sea Child": one of my favorite songs from Burgers. Beautiful picking from Jorma and Barry.
9. "Good Shepherd": longest jam of the night, although I didn't time it. All three musicians had ample time to solo.
10. "3rd Week In The Chelsea": originally recorded on Jefferson Airplane's Bark (1971).
11. "Just Because"

12. Encore: "Embryonic Journey"

By the time the band finished up with the old Jefferson Airplane instrumental, I was ready for bed. A very satisfying show, just like their Calvin show of last year was. And there's still the electric show coming up at the Beacon next weekend!

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