Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Booker T: A side of Green Onions

I never would have imagined seeing Booker T in Mount Vernon, Wash.

Not there's anything wrong with Mount Vernon. Nice, picturesque place in the middle of farm country, west of the mountains and east of the Sound. And the gorgeous, historic Lincoln Theatre has had a lot of talent on its stage.

But Booker T? The groove-master was a long way from home.

Though the May 16 show was nearly sold out, it still seemed like a "secret show" two days before his gig at Seattle's swanky Triple Door, more than an hour to the south. And man, what a secret show it was. It took a few numbers to get used to sitting in ancient theater seats instead of at a table with drinks, listening to Booker T's Hammond. And there was no dance floor to get on the good foot to "Green Onions." But again, what a night.

On tour to support his solo "Potato Hole" record, he essentially had a pick-up band of veteran hot-shots backing him (Neil Young and the Drive-By Truckers were on the disc). By the third number from "Potato Hole," the crowd forgot all about the DBTs, or the MGs, for that matter. Smokin' Telecaster player from Mavis Staples' band, trading off with a crafty Gibson player. A classic axe combination. Good rhythm section.  Hot band, no doubt inspired by who they were performing with.

And the new material was pretty good, too; R&B with an Americana undertone. "Reunion Time" really stood out, very pretty. Oh, and Booker T didn't disappoint everyone who came for a trip down memory lane: "Green Onions" and "Hip Hug Her" were fabulous; "Melting Pot" was mind-blowing. Booker T introduced every song, and subtly reminded us that he wrote "Born Under A Bad Sign." Incredible -- and the B3 legend sang it well! The closer, an extended jam of the all-time classic, "Time is Tight" got everyone up on their feet -- where they should have been the whole night. Encored with Tom Waits' "Get Behind the Mule."

Exceedingly gracious, Booker T lingered long after the show, signing and chatting with the fans. Yes, the man was a long way from home, but we all went home feeling very lucky that he made the trip.

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