Saturday, December 10, 2011

Vanilla Fudge -- Birchmere - Dec 9 2011

Vanilla Fudge - And yet another band of my youth hits the Birchmere stage to finish out an east coast/midwest tour. The last time I saw this band was when they played with Canned Heat, Mountain, and Pat Travers (who worked with Appice/Bogert to cover Beck songs, Cactus songs and all kinds of oddities) at the 9:30 Club. That show was half the cost of this one and only had about 1/4 of the people. But that is why booking club shows is best left to those with the guts (and deep pockets) to do so. I was worried with a slow early turnout, but ultimately it was a good sized crowd who cautiously welcomed back 3/4 of the original Vanilla Fudge.  Interestingly enough last time through it was Carmine Appice and Mark Stein with Tim Bogert. This time, Tim Bogert made way for a new touring bassist, while Vince Martell is back on guitar. I was most interested to see if he still had his chops and was pleasantly surprised. I was less surprised with the others as they have all aged well and the playing was sharp and most important heavy. It has been 45 years for this band and they celebrated by playing the first album in its entirety... well, save for a certain memorable hit that was saved for the closer. They also delved into latter work which still included mostly covers. Probably the lack of memorable original songs is the one thing that keeps this band from being mentioned with some of the other giants. But their interpretative ability is strong and they really added such heaviness to rock music in the late sixties while keeping soulful vocal stylings and interesting organ-guitar interplay. Kind of like seeing Carl Palmer in any band (like Asia where I don't know if I was more shocked that I actually went or that I actually mostly enjoyed it), Carmen Appice is worth a look anytime he shows up. He did his usual well received drum solo with lots of flash and power. He is a real showman as well as he came up with just sticks and a microphone and had the crowd clapping to his stick rhythms as they increasingly became more difficult. I also liked his lighted drumsticks used earlier. He was one of our favorite drummers among my high school circle of friends and it is great to see him in such great shape. Mark Stein on the organ and vocals is also looking way to young like his curly haired Zombies counterpart Rod Argent (although he isn't spending time with Argent in the gym). Vocal work from all four of them was very strong, which is often where the signs of aging show up first. These guys sound like they have many years left. And the played about an hour and fifty minutes without taking a break which was impressive. I expected a good show and ended up with a very good show tonight. The crowd increasingly upped the applause which showed further evidence that these guys were 'on' tonight.

Quote of the Night: Mark Stein after struggling with his vocal mic... "We'll do a lot from our fist album which recently went platinum... which means we afford a new mic stand."

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