BluesWax Spotlight On
ALIVE at Sellersville Theatre!
August 29, 2012
Initially, when I saw that Curtis Salgado was booked at Sellersville, I was overjoyed to see him make a rare Right Coast appearance so close to home, but then the news of another cancer surgery (July 7, 2012) reared its ugly head. Happiness turned to dread, as this was a second lung tumor mass extraction AFTER a successful liver transplant in 2006!
First thoughts were: Will he be able to continue his love of performing and, if so, how is this going to affect his powerful singing voice and harp-blowing power? Scarcely a couple weeks after the operation I read news of him appearing live at a couple places … then the announcement of a 30 plus-date tour beginning August 8! Wow! Let’s fast forward to my brief conversation with him just before he went on stage.
In essence, I was just overjoyed to see “my partner in crime” looking wonderful, full of vigor, and chompin’ at the bit to show off his beloved band and enthrall the audience. Let’s skip the surgery details discussed and concentrate on his miraculous recovery. The medical staff was in wonderment at how fast he was able to be discharged and Curtis’ own discovery of the same after he was home about a week and he said, “I felt really good on this day and thought, ‘What the hell’ and belted out a signature soul shout (which incidentally he did for me in real time) and thought, ‘Hey… that didn’t hurt at all!” That = SHOWTIME! Okay, let’s get to that.
Coming in THAT DAY from Portland, Curtis announced he’d do five songs from his new CD, Soul Shot, and then we’d see what happens. He started with the opening cut, “What You Gonna Do.” Now let’s just apply these facts learned from the very first tune, tremendous harmony vocal support from each band member started from the get-go as did a display of call and response from a fine solo vocalist in his own right, drummer Brian Foxworth. Tighter than an Olympic gymnast’s garb is an appropo way to describe the heavy sync this band was in all night. Let’s give the rest of them a deserved mention. Craig Stevenson – keys, Tracy Arrington – bass, and Vyasa Dodson of The Insomniacs on guitar.
They performed a total tunes of thriteen tunes that were all superbly crafted with dynamic changes in pace and intensity, even though after the first four Curtis kept saying, “We’re getting warmed up.” They were already white hot by the time they performed Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Strung Out” with Salgado admitting that love wasn’t the only thing he’d been strung out on in his past …. but not for a long time. He then brought the band down a couple levels and told Dodson to “Sting It!!”… which he definitely did with the tail end of the tune a duet with Salgado on harp into a BIG finish. The result? One of three standing “O’s” during the show. “Love Comfort Zone” was next with the psuedo horns aptly provided by Stevenson on keys and with Curtis slugging out soul-blues-drenched vocals that gave me chills. Without a moments hesitation “Love Man” by Otis Redding was resurrected by our modern-day medical-miracle man.
One especially lengthy and ever-changing tune started out with a slowly developing drum beat with big foot bass drum work that became recognizable as “Iko Iko” from a sweet harp intro. Then, slowly changing momentum as the band AND audience followed Salgado’s singing when a hard-driving keys solo took over and a jam spontaneously erupted into a five or six minute harp solo with a big finish with equally huge applause. Rapid fire into “Both Sorry Over Nothing” from 2008’s Clean Getaway with a very sweet chromatic solo and powerful background vocals. Next an old fave of his from 1973, Tower Of Power’s “Both Sorry Over Nuthin’” and the old-school soul of “I Was Born All Over” which proved once again he’d lost NOTHING from his multiple surgeries … maybe even better than ever with his “luckiest man in the universe” attitude. Next was a funny explanation of “A Woman Or The Blues” from his new recording on Alligator. What came first? The chicken or the egg…okay, then what came first, he asked the assembly “A Woman Or The Blues” that he promptly broke into after a loud “WOMAN!!” came from the men in the audience. It was a rollicking gospel romp that closed the show with fiery vocals from all and the obligatory standing “O.” Did I type “obligatory”? So was an encore, “Baby, Let Me Take You In My Arms.”
My personal recommendation is to check his remaining dates and use whatever means required to get there and experience a true soul man in his prime with a band that fits him like a glove. Another recommendation would be, please cut a live album. Why, you ask? Even though his last two CDs were basically The Phantom Blues Band backing him up, consummate pros and a pleasure to see live too, this band was in love with “the moment” and it showed.
One more thing, during a song he breathed a plea into the mic that he needed a woman … with a job! It got a chuckle from most but a guffaw from me to which he commented,”Partner in Crime, this ain’t no Fortune 500 instrument!” holding up his chromatic harmonica, which elicited another guffaw from me. This is a left-handed way to say, those operations are still not paid off, even with benefits by Robert Cray (and he owes Curtis in my book), Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and many others, so I urge you to toss a few shekels his way. For more information on the Curtis Salgdo Medical Fund click HERE.
Thank you Curtis! A truly mind-blowing performance enjoyed by all present.
Beardo is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax.
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