Okay, at the risk of using too much hyperbole again, which I guess has become an unofficial trademark of mine, I gotta give some serious props to aging rockers The Doobie Brothers.
These guys, and here comes the hyperbole, gave a master class on how to put on an ass-kicking rock concert at Northfield’s Hard Rock Rocksino this past Friday night.
The northern California-based group was founded in 1969 as a trio and quickly embraced vocal harmonies as their signature sound. While the lineup may have changed over the years, their devotion to creamy harmonies has remained a staple of their retinue.
When The Doobies come up in conversation, people tell me that they’re the “Michael McDonald band.” I correct them; while McDonald surely played (and still does, on occasion) a large part in the band’s success, they existed years prior to McDonald’s addition to the band, replacing lead vocalist Tom Johnston, in the mid 1970s.
When founding members Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston took the Doobies on the road in 1970, I bet they didn’t know they’d still be listening to the music almost fifty years later. Their capacity crowd at the Rocksino attests to this band’s staying power.
Starting the set off with “Jesus Is Just Alright,” the energy and tempo didn’t dissipate until their encore a scant ninety minutes later.
Johnston and Simmons were joined by John McFee, the third-longest serving member of the band, joining in 1980. Also backing them were Bill Payne (ex-Little Feat) on keys; Marc Russo on sax; Minerva, Ohio-reared John Cowan on bass; and ex-Vertical Horizon drummer Ed Toth behind the kit.
Taking us through their almost fifty year musical journey, the band’s offerings gave us all their hits and a few lesser-known tracks. Tunes such as “Dark Eyed Cajun Woman” and “Spirit” were propped up by classics such as “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “China Grove,” and “Black Water.”
Both “Long Train Runnin'” and “The Doctor” were late-set additions, followed by their encore hits “Without You,” and of course, “Listen To The Music.”
The capacity crowd at the venue was on its collective feet from “Jesus” until the last notes of the encore. This outfit is tight; their harmonies and vocal abilities are spot on and co-vocalists Johnston and Simmons show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I can’t think of a recent show where the energy level was as high as it was during this show. And I’m not talking about the band’s namesake recreational drug of choice, either.
Opener JD and the Straight Shot took the stage for a rousing thirty-five minute set. The Blues/Rock/Americana outfit, pet project of James Dolan ( the “JD” in the band) of the Cablevision Dolan family, put on an eclectic mix of music. The band, led by Dolan on lead vocals, Erin Slaver, a golden nugget of a fiddle player and an amazing vocalist, and Marc Copely on mandolin (as well as performing duties as the band’s musical director), offered a bevy of original tunes as well as a crowd-pleasing cover of Three Dog Night’s “Shambala.” Their new album, Good Luck and Good Night, was a recent release.
But the band struck me as awesome for a completely different reason: Here’s Dolan, a multi-millionaire. I would guess that a pair of large-necked bodyguards were backstage to protect him. I envision a large penthouse apartment that overlooks Lower Manhattan. Yet, despite all of that, here he is on a small stage in northeastern Ohio, making music. Here’s a guy who dons a fedora, has an urge to create, express himself and surround himself with other musicians that can make that dream a reality.
There’s something unique and pure about that notion that all the money in the world can’t buy.
And that’s not a lotta hyperbole, either.