Texas native Vanessa Boyd is the latest in a rather long line of artists and musicians from that state relocating to music-flooded Asheville. Her 2004 self-produced disc, unkept woman, shows off Boyd’s unique, slightly edgy voice (one that, in some weird way, recalls 4 Non-Blondes lead singer Linda Perry). Boyd’s music, however, is miles removed from the rocky pop of the Blondes: She evokes her own purer rock formula on the path of the introspective songwriter. You can catch Boyd and her guitar at an intimate gig at Blue Mountain Pizza in Weaverville on Thursday, Feb. 24.
Dr. John vs. Garaj Mahal
Saturday, Feb. 12 at The Orange Peel and Stella Blue, respectively.
The Band’s final concert, captured in epic proportions by director Martin Scorsese in his 1978 rocumentary The Last Waltz, was recently re-polished and re-released as a special-edition DVD. The film marks essential viewing for any fan of rock music, capturing one of the most star-studded spectaculars of the post-Elvis era.
One of the film’s many highlights comes when The Band invites Dr. John to the stage for a run through his groovy NOLA-flavored ditty, “Such a Night.” The spot offers a glance at the mostly underground legend in his young, hip prime. Decked out in a gaudy outfit with a pink bow tie, tinted shades and an ear-to-ear smile, Dr. John ably demonstrates his pounding piano prowess and soulfully gritty voice in perhaps the coolest guest spot of the whole movie.
But that was nearly 30 years ago. And as The Band knew back then — by opting for a grand last hurrah rather than some prolonged, slowly eroding demise — time just slips away, and everybody who lives long enough will inevitably get old someday.
Dr. John is no exception to these rules, and while his recent Orange Peel gig mostly showed the Doctor in good solid form, he also clearly lacked some of the voodoo fire from his younger days.
After his able backing band opened the show with a slick version of The Meters’ “Cissy Strut,” the Doctor then settled in with his sweet baby grand (decorated with a cheesy fake skull and some token bone shakers) for a 90-minute run through his unmistakable brand of bayou boogie.
Like the recent Gregg Allman gig at The Peel, “An Evening with Dr. John” ran a bit shorter than the marquee suggested (especially considering the sorta-high price tag). It seems that aging legends like the Doctor and Gregg just don’t have the stamina they used to here in the autumns of their lives. But despite the brevity, the good Doctor’s slimy blues voice still retains its soulful stature, and his turned-way-up piano licks still resonate his considerable talent. In the end, perhaps unsurprisingly, Dr. John isn’t quite the wild-eyed wonder with a pink bow tie from those golden days, and on such a night as this, he treaded dangerously close to parodying himself.
After the Doctor finished with a brief one-song encore, I moseyed up to Stella Blue for a look at the insanely talented foursome Garaj Mahal.
I was particularly interested in this gig after having caught these jazz-trained jammers at last summer’s SmileFest in Union Grove. At that show, Garaj Mahal, as one friend later wrote, “played relentlessly until sunrise.” Their four-hour-plus single set was especially impressive when considering that none of the members ever even took a bathroom break, while musically, they expertly touched down in a half-dozen or more genres.
This time, however, Garaj Mahal didn’t quite float my boat as they had before. It was quite possibly the lukewarm Dr. John show haunting my footsteps that kept me from seeing the light this time around, but nevertheless, I just wasn’t feeling the fury I experienced last summer.
Anchoring the still-undeniably-fascinating band is guitarist Fareed Haque, a phenomenal jazz and world-music-influenced player who a holds an associate professorship at Northern Illinois University in jazz and classical guitar.
At Stella Blue, the band’s usual eclecticism may have been what threw my Garaj Zen off, as their seemingly endless songs — mostly void of singing — bounced all over the place like a pinball on speed. Nevertheless, they’re truly some of the most talented players working the jazz/jam circuit today.
Score: On the languishing-leftovers scale, this week’s live music scores some day-old reheated pizza — still pretty good, even if it ain’t fresh no more.