Always wanted to do another concert review. Here it comes…
Back in the day, when Ure was a rock & roll newscaster on the AM side of the late KOL in Seattle (which went on as KMPS), it was Patrick McDonald who did the concert reviews. Pat was so good that he became the head music reviewer for The Seattle Times.
Key lesson for the junior reviewer? It’s not just about the music when you do a review. It’s also about the people who were there and their experience of things.
Since our seats were a row down from our friends, Judy and Robin Landry, I struck up a conversation with the fellow next to me.
As luck would have it, he was a blues musician – and not only that, but his wife was a blues singer and songwriter, too.
That led to a discussion of the Oklahoma blues. A year or two back, this gentlemen and his band (three females doing harmony) had made it to a blues contest in Memphis.
But their starting point was in Checotah, Oklahoma, or, more properly, in Rentieville, Oklahoma where there’s a bit “dusk till dawn” at D.C. Minner’s joint:
If you like the blues, bookmark the Blues Festival Guide for advice like:
“The Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame also announces it’s 2018 Inductees and on May 26th there will be a celebration in Rentiesville of this state’s blues tradition… and indeed it is a rich one. A record number of 11 artists with strong roots in the State of OK, will be honored with music, trophies, bar-b-que and a good time at D.C. Minner’s time-worn juke joint.”
…and a whole lot more.
The area around Checotrah, Oklahoma is a real hot-spot for good blues, having a higher black population than other parts of the state. And D.C. Minners? It is to Oklahoma blues what the Fillmore was back when San Francisco rock was coming of age.
The bluesman next to us explained from Rentiesville, Oklahoma, the next step if Memphis and his ground had made it a couple of years back and if he can fine a bass player, he wants another chance at it.
By now, a warm up band, three you Welsh boys being “brought up” as an opening act for Tom Jones were on.
As they wrapped up half a dozen songs, I noted that they were not “piped” through the same sound system that would later be used by the main act. There was a good bit of “room bounce” from the wall on the left, because we were very close (left ground floor) a dozen rows back from the stage.
During the intermission for setup in preparation for Jones, I learned that the blues man was hoping for some of Jones less commercial music.
The blues man wouldn’t be disappointed.
Tom Jones is a marvelous human being.
With the opening riff of Burning Hell, the blues man turned and gave me a knowing nod. “John Lee Hooker song….” Uh-huh…
Oh, sure, the women on hand were no doubt interested in his carefully crafted “bad boy” image. But that turns out, was not who Tom Jones was when off stage.
But with a high-energy live performance of “Sex Bomb” the women on hand would not be disappointed by his “bad boy” act.
There were other standards, too. Delilah, for example, was fascinating, not only for Jones voice, but for the light show going on in background.
You Can Leave Your Hat On, was another of Jones hits that went appealed to the runaway sexuality of an earlier time for a good share of the audience.
What came out, as you listened to the songs, was a story of the non-public Tom Jones.
The one who had gotten out of school and gone to work straightaway in a factory at age 15. Who married the love of his life at age 16- and to whom he is still married 59-years later.
Along the way, it was a story of a thoughtful man who had discovered his faith and his mission in life…That came through most clearly in “Trouble Me.”
Talk about a life of change.
Music selection for an artist of Sir Jones caliber is problematic at best. He’s not the Welch bad boy image. He’s a grown up.
And we were blessed to see him live. Because at some point, everyone goes…even the greatest musicians of our lifetimes.
Tom Jones seemed to reflect that – and a lot more.
Pick for his best song of the evening? Hard call. The high-energy stuff, sure. But the gracefully aging gentleman? One song that summed up the man and his life, then?
“I was born like this, didn’t have no choice. I was born with the gift of a golden voice, and 27-angels from the Great Beyond, They tied me to the stage, right here, In The Tower of Song.”
Saturday night in Tulsa was a reschedule from last October when illness slowed him down.
It’s refreshing to see an artist who’s deeper than their hit songs – like She’s a Lady. An even richer, more mature voice but now a thoughtful, still evolving man who’s quickly approaching 80. A reminder to the rest of us how good life can be.
We’re trying to collect a few memories of artists like Jones while they’re still around. The Cohen lyrics in Tower of Song seemed to say it best:
“Now I bid you farewell, don’t know when I’ll be back,
They’re moving us tomorrow to the Tower down the track, and you’ll be hearing from be baby, long after I’m gone.
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in The Tower of Song.”
More tomorrow as we hold the “First International Robin Landry Film Festival.”
Write when you get rich,