Dick Dale at Continental Club, 4/17/2014
Photos by Jim Bricker
Dick Dale Continental Club April 17, 2014
Walking into the Continental Club, I had the thought: "Can Dick Dale still do it at 76 years old?" I mean, I know folks younger that can't even send an email, let alone rip a guitar like it's going out of style. But I would soon find out that not only can he still play, but his guitar riffs sounded cleaner than ever.
Dale, who has had an off-and-on relationship with music since the late 1950s, likes to keep it simple, and proved that Thursday during a 90 minute set of mostly covers to an overly packed room. He doesn't need all the bells and whistles of modern technology -- just give him his Fender and a classic amp and he'll walk all over the youngsters trying to replicate his style today.
And at 76, Dale is rather spry. I can't imagine anyone thought he still could play his riffs with such vigor as he did, but he had no problem doing just that, and more. And a little after 10:30 p.m., when most folks his age are tucked in bed asleep, Dale picked up his guitar and began to let it sing.
I didn't really know what to expect from a full show of his, as he didn't have that many hits in his long career, but that was soon answered when he started playing familiar '50s and '60s guitar tunes to his own surf-rock, staccato picking style. While he's not a regular vocalist, he lent his words to classic songs like "House of the Rising Sun" and "Ring of Fire," letting the crowd howl out most of the lyrics while Dale looked out upon his adoring fans with a sly grin.
While some of his better-known tunes like "Misrilou" (which you might know as the lead song in Pulp Fiction), "Esperanza," "Let's Go Trippin'" and "King of the Surf Guitar" were performed, and played well, Dale's strongest efforts of the night came during his covers. He basically took every famous guitar riff of his time period and played it better than the original.
"Hey! Bo Diddley" had the crowd call-and-response down, while the medley of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and the Rivieras' "California Sun" was easily the hottest moment of the evening. I felt bad for anyone in the area, as they had to deal with the cathartic top-of-the-lungs screaming during "Rising Sun," while a take on Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" was a random yet welcome choice towards the end of the set.
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And with so many covers, it was really a glimpse into what made up Dale's signature sound over the years. While he'd been doing his own thing since the late '50s, you could tell he was influenced by so many of his counterparts at the time. Hell, he even tackled a Mel Torme cover, which immediately showed his age. But what people don't realize is that Dale influenced so many bands that we love and listen to today.
Don't chastise me, but I was listening to a Sublime song the other day and could instantly hear Dale's influence on said tune. Ever since I knew I was covering this show, all I could hear in popular music was his famed guitar tone and style of playing. Everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Vampire Weekend picked something up from Dale along the way.
For someone still to be influencing bands 60 years later is something any musician would ask for, a true mark of success that all the money and giant record contracts couldn't make up for. You could be a multiplatinum-selling artist but not influence anyone, and live out your life fat and happy but soon be forgotten once you're gone. Dale might not have the millions and millions, or that big label to back him up, but he does have something money can't buy: legendary status.
Personal Bias:: He's a legend. And like anyone my age, I was a huge fan of Pulp Fiction.
The Crowd: Terribly packed into Continental Club like a bunch of music-loving sardines. On a whole, though, everyone was pretty damn cool and were excited as I was to see that hour and a half of music.
Overheard In the Crowd: "This is like a prom in the '50s!"
Random Notebook Dump: During the last few songs, a younger lady in the front row was giving 76-year-old Dale a look like, "I would bang you." As an old man, he's apparently still attractive to ladies of all ages. Good for you, Dick.
Nitro Caterpillar Crawl Ghost Riders In the Sky (Vaughn Monroe cover) Pipeline (The Chantays cover) Rumble (Link Wray cover) Shake n' Stomp What'd I Say (Ray Charles cover) Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran cover) California Sun (The Rivieras cover) The House of the Rising Sun (Ashley & Foster cover) Esperanza Fever (Little Willie John cover) Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover) Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover) Let's Go Trippin' King of the Surf Guitar Hey! Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley cover) Comin' Home Baby (Mel Torme cover) Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple cover) Peter Gunn Theme (Henry Mancini cover) Amazing Grace (John Newton cover) Misirlou
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