Dr. John/Jon Cleary House of Blues/The Big Easy August 20, 2010
In spite of all the BS whining that we don't "support the local scene" or that we have our head up somebody's ass, it's a great time to be a music journalist in Houston. Friday night was no exception, as Aftermath caught Dr. John at House of Blues and then scurried across town to The Big Easy to hear Jon Cleary. The sad part is we had to drive right past Heather Myles playing at the Continental, but hey, the clock's only got so many hours on it.
If you ever doubted for one minute that the lower Mississippi River gave birth to rock and roll, Dr. John, dressed in a purple suit accented with pink all around, gave us a reminder - a little refresher course, if you will. While the crowd talked on (at one point Aftermath wanted to jump up on a table and scream, "You sons of bitches, shut up, don't you understand this is Dr. John?"), the Good Doctor turned the first half of Leadbelly's "Good Night, Irene" into a swingin' New Orleans rock and roll history lesson, then let his band Lower 911 - guitarist John Fohl, bassist David Barard and drummer Herman "Roscoe" Ernest III - loose to show us the present and future of rock and roll.
The Doctor's point? To remind us once again just how close gospel, Dixieland, and rock and roll are. For an old rock and roller, it was like having a drink of Rocky Mountain spring water straight from Big Muddy itself.
When he went into his Night Tripper musical personality, the Doctor gave us another refresher course, this time on the connections between blues, voodoo hoodoo, and jazz. Yes, children, the Night Tripper lives on.
And of course, he played 'the hits,' "Such a Night" and the ultra-funkdaified "Right Place, Wrong Time."
We skipped the encore and sped toward upper Kirby to catch the hottest five-dollar ticket in town, New Orleans boogie-woogie piano genius Jon Cleary. When we arrived, the Big Easy was packed like we seldom see it. Making our way to the back bar, we realized that Cleary was up on the stage somewhere. But the sea of writhing, sweating humanity made it impossible to see him until after his set.
And what a torrid set it was, as hot as anything we've seen anywhere this year. Cleary has taken old-school Fats Domino rock and roll to a virtuoso level. When Cleary sings "Hello, Josephine," Josephine knows she's been said hello to.
Cleary's trio worked their way masterfully and joyfully through the New Orleans songbook, rockin' it here, bluesin' it there, but always keeping the energy level at full throttle. The show was truly inspiring.
And for only five bucks? Yes, you should've gotten off the couch and been there.
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Personal Bias: You play a song by Fats Domino, you're on the right track.
The Crowd: Too much talking. Period. Stop it, Houston. Just do it. You paid $40 for a ticket just so you could have your picture taken on an iPhone with Dr. John in the background? That's obnoxious behavior. Take it to Washington Avenue, where you'll blend in better.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I wish everybody would shut the fuck up."
Random Notebook Dump: So do we.