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SLCR #190: Dr. John (June 27, 2013)

I’ve been stalling on this one because I have nothing to say. Mika said “do you want to go to this?” and I said “fine.” And then we went, and she said “what did you think?” and I said it was “fine.” Now it is almost six weeks later, the Regina Folk Festival is looming, and I can’t talk about stalling enough to fill up this here text file of potentially infinite size.

Not only did I know next to nothing about Dr. John before the show, I almost knew less than nothing because most things I thought I knew were wrong. New Orleans jazz/blues/funk? I got that part, but when I checked out some of his songs on YouTube, all I discovered was that I didn’t know any of them. I was off to a fine start. Mika tells me that he was on Treme; apparently I should pay more attention to the music on that show instead of just thinking “dang, Davis needs a kick in the dick” before going back to doing crosswords on my iPad. And I had no idea that he was the inspiration for Dr. Teeth on the Muppets, though that made perfect sense once I actually saw him.

We got to the casino to discover that Bobby Curtola will be playing there in September. I texted my dad with this news. As I suspected/feared, he immediately insisted that we all go together as a family. Yes. And we’re doing this. Given our (I should probably be polite here) divergent tastes in music, I suppose it isn’t surprising that it will have taken 190+ reviews for my dad to make his official SLCR debut, but let me tell you, I am pumped for this opportunity. Half of that review is already written in my head and we’re still almost two months out.

But back to Dr. John.

Do you care that we sat on one side of our table, and then moved to the other side for the marginally better view, and then moved back to accommodate the strangers that we were sharing a table with? No? Good. Moving on.

There was no opener. Dr. John’s band took the stage and began playing before the man himself was introduced by his backup singer. Wearing a sensational purple suit and sporting a butt-length ponytail, he walked out with a cane – “walked” might be a bit generous – pointed at the crowd and at his band, then took a seat at the piano. He moved to the guitar for a song or two half-way through the set, but stuck with the piano for the most part.

I’d love to tell you what he played, but for the most part, I honestly don’t know. I recognized Right Place Wrong Time, mostly because it came up frequently during my YouTube snooping, and he also played Let The Good Times Roll, St. James Infirmary, and Goodnight Irene. Beyond that, I was pretty much unfamiliar with everything, and the gruff vocals are not the easiest to pick up.

It was still a really fun show, though. You had a veteran performer backed up by a really tight band. Much like when we saw Leonard Cohen, the band alone would have been worth the price of admission. After years of watching young bands in bars, it’s a treat to watch experts at their craft. Near the end of the show, Dr. John introduced the band and each player got their turn to do a solo, and this was one of the highlights of the evening, even if some chump DID feel the need to talk loudly as the drummer was playing as quietly as possible. There will always be jerks at concerts, even if sometimes they’re elderly jerks. 

Interestingly, there was no encore. They played about 90 minutes, Dr. John introduced the band, the band members each did their solos, they did a closing song, and they were done. The lights went up immediately. Not sure I’ve seen that before. I don’t know what the deal was; some poking around online suggests that he’d played encores at other shows.

We’ve established that while Dr. John may be a hall-of-famer and a musical legend, seeing him was an opportunity that was largely wasted on me. I told Aaron that I’d seen Dr. John – I apparently didn’t even bother to mention this at any point before the show – and he was jealous that I’d had the chance. I clearly was not suitably appreciative of the opportunity I’d received. But ultimately, much like when we saw Mavis Staples at the Regina Folk Festival last year, I left with a new appreciation for the artist, but mostly, I left thinking “man, I wish I’d seen this 20 years ago.”

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