Saturday, April 30, 2011
Hot Tuna -- Birchmere - Apr 29 2011
Hot Tuna - I am finally catching up with these road warriors after missing out many many times. And this is an interesting time to catch them as they are touring their first studio album they have released in twenty years. In addition to the two founders, their long-time mandolinist/guitarist and drummer, they have an additional guitarist/violinist and female vocalist who worked with them on the album. It's hard for me to believe that this is the first time I am seeing any member of Jefferson Airplane as much as I liked them. Well maybe not, as I really did not ever want to see Jefferson Starship. But I have loosely followed Hot Tuna from afar as they shifted between countless electric and acoustic tours. This show was full-on electric and for 2 1/2 hours, delivered lots of interest, diverse music. The new cuts were a mix of styles and some worked very well, while others were fair. They covered many other points of their history which definitely revved up the large crowd tonight. They even went back to a song from the 1920s. And that was the key to the success of this band. They really had a diverse collection of songs that covered the blues, rock, folk, and even touched on their classic psyche style along with moments of Americana, jazz, and bluegrass. It was all seamless in the transitions due to the quality and experience of the players. Jack Casady, who just turned 67, still looks the same with the expected aging. He sounds like he can play for another 20 years as he has always been one of my favorite bass players. He even jumps, which is more than I can do some mornings. He slides between foreground and background effortlessly which is always the sign of a good bass player. Jorma Kaukonen (now 70!) moves with caution and care, but has fingerwork that is still capable of dazzling. Plenty of sharp tones from his thumb picking with some delicate finger touches when needed. His solos were strong, although he was happy to share time with his other two players who had many great moves of their own. I particularly like the drum work as it was very similar to Casady, as his playing stayed light and steady when needed, but pushed rock-heavy when that was appropriate. As much as I enjoyed John Mayall here, this was a higher on my list, as both the feel of the musicians and the eclectic material really brought this up a notch (although to be fair to Mayall he purposely will stay closer to straight blues). If you are uncertain about which of the many older acts is worth seeing (and I know I am), I am happy to report that Hot Tuna is one of the better choices you can make. And it really looks like it may stay that way for a while. And it's nice to see the DC duo from the SF scene play back on their homefront, which they enjoy as well. For as Jorma said... "A lot of those (SF) people didn't really get our DC humor, as one guy said to him back in the day...Wow, man. Like I thought you were beautiful people, but you're just regular guys!" Yes, two regular guys that have been playing great music together for 52 years.
Quote of the Night: Another one from Jorma while tuning... "Sometimes people who don't play guitar say 'don't those things (whammy or tremolo bars) throw the guitar out of tune?' Of course they throw it out of tune, it's what they are supposed to do!"