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Animals Carry a Heavy... Burdon!

When was the last time you saw a show that was so fantastic, you were charged up for hours after the lights went down?  And still thinking about it the next day?  Come on… think!  Where were you?   What did you do before the show?  Who did you go there with?  Did they have the same electrified feeling?  Did the band play a favorite song (or all your favorites)?  Is that tune playing in your mind right now?  Do you see the lead singer, looking right at you, holding out their hand and making an impact with the phrase that always made you think that song was about you?  Is there an awesome melody that takes you away?  Is the groove making your head rock just a bit as you find yourself falling back into it – even though those notes have long ago sailed off into the ether?  Music is a powerful medium, and you’re not the only one to have fallen for its haunting charms.

I must admit, after seeing countless concerts with Musicians of all levels, I’ve become a bit critical about detailed aspects of shows.  From the sound to the lighting, to the all-important performance itself – the culmination of (thousands of) hours of practice, rehearsals and stage time to hone and perfect the whole package into a dynamic force of dazzling proportions.  These all become part of my interpretation of how entertaining it really is. 

When I decided to attend the Eric Burdon & the Animals show, I found myself thinking, ‘OK, here’s an old-school rocker resting on his laurels trying to keep some of that old time magic alive.’  Even though I’d long held a fondness for quite a few of the songs that have graced the airwaves for decades, I did not expect more than a few tired versions of those hallowed classics.  Boy (or girl), was I in for a surprise!  From the moment the band took the stage and launched into ‘Don’t Bring me Down’ thru the dramatic encore of ‘It’s my Life’ I found new respect and admiration for this ‘old-school’ group.  These guys displayed some mind-blowing inspiration!!

Eric Burdon (http://www.ericburdon.com/ ) is well into his 70’s - so I was not exactly expecting him to be able to break glass.  However…  Even with the heavy wildfire smoke in the air Saturday night combined with Tahoe’s mile-plus oxygen-depriving elevation, he belted out the high notes with stunning clarity and fluidly alternated into down-and-dirty grit as the song demanded; a complete mastery of his signature vocal sound!  There may be a few cracks in the old foundation, but his voice is still in amazing shape!  No doubt, he’s the real deal, and showed complete confidence by the way he set up the songs with some well-placed punchlines. Way to go!

Also pleasantly refreshing was the fact that Eric didn’t (as several ‘old-schoolers’ have recently done), hire a group of young bucks to back him up.  He pulled in some downright excellent veterans for this gig!  A rock-tight rhythm section made up of Tony Braunagel (Record Producer/Drums), Terry Wilson (Bass), and Wally Ingram* (Percussion), were clearly having a good time backing up tasty and theatrical solo performances by Billy Watts (Guitar), and Red Young (Organ/Keys).  It was hard for me to pick a favorite because I enjoyed watching everyone do their thing, taking their spots and then locking back into the groove with subtle cues. 

I can only guess that the sound onstage must have been fairly sweet, and that always helps a band perform best.  It’s always been that way for me anyway; when the stage sounds good, the band has fun, and the audience has fun with them.  And the result was obvious by the way the crowd responded.  I can confirm the house sound in Harrah’s South Shore Room (https://www.caesars.com/harrahs-tahoe/shows ) was spot on – big and full without blowing your eardrums out with overly-goosed high end.  I have seen a few bands here that didn’t take command of the fullness this room presents – which is curious because the sound system clearly has the capacity.  Like some of my other favorite venues (like the Fillmore and the Warfield in SF), if you can’t sound good here, you can’t sound good anywhere!  A lot of folks don’t realize just how important that behind-the-scenes sound man is.  He/she can make you sound fantastic, or just plain gawd-awful!  Thankfully, this person knew what they were doing!

Like you, I am one of those stricken with a love for music.  But I am conditional with my love on this platform.  First and foremost, it must be played by an actual person!  Canned electronics just have no soul.  I don’t know about you, but I’m quickly bored with someone who is on a stage pushing buttons to trigger a pre-recorded pattern.  You might be able to dance to a DJ, but I’m sorry that’s not really a performance.  It just isn’t the same thing as someone who is playing it live in front of you, with human spirit and imperfections, who looks up from their instrument to make that connection with you, another living being, to see if you’re feeling what they’re feeling

I want music to take me away for a while, to transcend some of the mundane paces we all find ourselves invariably involved in, to open our minds to alternate thinking and keep things moving toward positive places.  I think Eric Burdon and his Band of Animals did just that.  Highly recommended if they’re coming to your town…

Edward Wade


** Wally Ingram – the ‘baby’ in the band – already has an impressive bio, in which there are claims he’s well connected.  Hmm, I happen to agree.  Because, he even shares some common music connections with l’il old me!  It’s a small world folks…

P.S. Mr. Jones, my Music Theory Teacher back in… the day…  once revealed to me that his personal theory about music was that it was so important, if you took all the music away from the world, it would go insane.  Let’s not test that one…