The Band & Wes
The Band - John Wesley Harding
Vic Theatre - Chicago
April 19, 1996
First Appeared in The Music Box, March/April 1996, Volume 3, #2
Written by John Metzger
The Band made a rather intimate appearance at the Vic Theater in Chicago in mid-April and pulled off an enjoyable, but somewhat routine performance. The group has been touring fairly regularly for the past few years, and unfortunately there has been very little variation in its sets. Even the material from the new album, High on the Hog, has been around for more than a year. The group opened in a rather mellow form with a relaxed version of Back to Memphis which featured Garth Hudson wailing on saxophone. This is quite a versatile group with drummer Levon Helm playing guitar, bass, and mandolin in addition to keeping the rhythm. Second drummer Randy Ciarlante also picked up the bass, and of course, Garth Hudson plays a variety of saxophones in addition to keyboards and accordion. The Band selected a number of songs from its most recent album as well as many from Jericho, including its special arrangement of Bruce Springsteen's Atlantic City. Only a few of the classics popped up, and they mostly sounded quite uninspired. Even so, Rag Mama Rag was a rousing jam session and Caledonia Mission was a touching highlight.
John Wesley Harding opened the show with his unique brand of folk music. Harding and his acoustic guitar were joined by multi-talented Robert Lloyd on about half of the songs he played, including the opener To Whom It May Concern. Other highlights were the Bob Dylan-inspired Talking Return of the Great Folk Scare Blues with its humorous lyrics and the catchy The Devil in Me.
After his set, Harding made an appearance in the lobby peddling an excellent Rhino Records release called Dynablob. It's a collection of out-takes from his many studio sessions. I had the opportunity to speak with him for a few seconds between sales.
TMB: Your recent tour with Rob Wasserman was excellent. You made a great pair, and things really seemed to click. Do you have any plans to record with him in the near future?
Wes: Definitely, I really enjoyed working with him. He's an excellent bass player. (Pause to sell and sign another CD.) As a matter of fact, I'll be on that Dead thing...that Dead tour that's happening this summer.
So, as you make your annual pilgrimage across the country, be sure to head into the arena early enough to catch Harding's always enjoyable performance. You won't be disappointed!
The Band's High on the Hog is available from Barnes & Noble.
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Copyright © 1996 The Music Box