House of Blues - New Orleans - 2/26/98

by Gio Vanni Bruno

I'll try not to be too redundant in relation to the other fine reviews of both WAT legs.

First of all, I had Louisville tickets and hotel reservations. Closest TR was coming to Little Rock. Cancelled. I was crushed and forlorn for the 24 to 36 hours between the cancellation and the posting of 4 new/extra dates on the net. On again and up again for NO.

My younger brother, Vince, and I drove down from Little Rock to arrive in time for dinner and the show at the HOB. We had never been to NO before, but have both seen TR many times (this was my 8th time since November 1973). We nabbed the nearest stools (we're getting older and lazier, I guess) to the stage as soon as they let the dinner receipt holders (us by a dietary fluke) in first. This vantage (front left if you're facing the stage) was great for TR, Kas and Prairie, but I saw a little less of Jesse and John than I hoped. The room and set were just as I had seen in the web photos, but cool in the old church/theatre funky setting. Did anyone else look at the permanent ALL IS ONE sign above the stage and finish singing *Communion with the Sun* in your head?

Way before the show started, I set two I SLEPT WITH KENNETH STARR bumper stickers on the floor in front of TR's stool, but in keeping with the *no surprises, we're in Hawaii and the script to this interactive play is written* attitude of this tour, Al or one of the other barkeeps took them offstage before the show began. I hope TR eventually got them. Anyway ...

Has anyone else mentioned the cool pre-show music? My brother and I loved it. I wish I had it all on one CD.


Surprises -1st set - I didn't expect Caravan to be a mixture of the old standard (Tito Puente?) and the Utopia song. Stellar performance. From the minute TR began, his voice was in better shape/sound than any other time I've seen him in the past 25 years. All night he hit every note. Sound, lights and room ambiance were all perfect. My brother is computer/net-less, so I called out the name of each song to him before it happened. (I also sang along to every song.)


More surprises - even the strictly bossa nova stuff was more upbeat/energetic/dynamic than the CD, with TR occasionally sliding back into *on the beat* rather than *before the beat* phrasing. Zen Archer was a delight. Jesse seemed to break a string on the steel string acoustic and had to revert to the classical sometime during the first set. It didn't adversely affect the show at all.

Bad lounge comic, as if in actual Hawaiian Tiki bar, I suppose. Does the audience get that he's supposed to be bad? Could have done without all the Arkansas and Little Rock jokes, especially as I was one of the 2 people in the building wearing a really nice suit (for the same reason I bleached-then-dyed my hair blue and pink in 1974 - to match TR).

Set 2 - I'm amazed at how wonderfully free TR was to ape and *funny face* at his age (near 50), sticking his tongue out, etc. Vince had only listened to his Individualist CD once (shame on him), so he fell in love with the song on first live hearing (same with Espresso from 1st set). Real Man, Eastern Intrigue and Can't Stop Running were HIGH energy at a beautiful, bearable volume for somewhat old ears. At one point during EI, I stood up (singing) on the rungs of my bar stool to see over SRO heads and was approached by a surly security dude (evidenced by his walkie-talkie) who asked me to stop taking photos. I told him I was not taking photos, didn't have a camera and that the other guy in a suit behind me was probably who he was looking for. Made me miss a few precious seconds of a great performance. Vince was thankful that his favorite TR song, Lost Horizon, was not forgotten.

Set 3 - We hoped for I Don't Want To Tie You Down but got LOTCM and TD instead. I ain't complaining. TR did do the chords to LOTCM a little odd as previously reported, ending the phrases with one held suspended chord instead of the usual two resolvers. Different. When reading reviews, I assumed Lucky Guy here would be acoustic, too, with John or TR on solo piano. Wrong. A wonderful full-band, guitar-based, bossa nova version instead. I was in heaven.

As the standard jazz riff of the newly tooled BTS started, I looked at Vince and began singing the old words along with it, not realizing that this REALLY IS BTS and TR is about to echo me (felt cooler than it reads). I loved the solos, and I even trie singing the chorus to *White and Red* off Kas's solo album to the jazz riff. Hey, it worked. Soul medley worked really well with this line-up. (Yes, the BG vocals were impeccable all night. Kas smiled a lot, too.) At *Dream* I was no longer a 42-year-old businessman with four kids in a strange town and bar, I was 18 again, caught up in the rich sadness/joy of the endlessly repeating tag. Swaying and forgetting my oldest will be 18 next month.

We quickly realized that if we stayed to wait for TR and company to come out to the bus or whatever, we would get less than the 4 hours sleep on a friends floor we actually got before driving the 8 hours back to Little Rock. So as soon as the bar tab was paid, we departed the night I knew I could not, should not, would not miss.

And, my friends, it was waaay worth it.

Gio Vanni Bruno