Little Feat at the Minnesota Zoo, 7/10/11
Little Feat have a musical history that spans over four decades, and as most of the members are now nearing the retirement age, it seems almost ludicrous to consider a band that has survived many a musical period and is still producing worthy--and even relevant--material in this post-whatever age of hip. Yet Little Feat is somehow still going strong, even bringing in new fans, as evidenced at their show at the Minnesota Zoo last night.
The band's 12-song set stretched out over two hours, and the Zoo Amphitheater was full with fans that spanned generations. The songs bounded around from genre to genre, encompassing everything from countrified folk-rock to New Orleans-style blues and jazz, and every variation in between.
About three songs into the set, lead singer and guitarist Paul Barrerre referenced Richie Hayward, longtime Little Feat drummer who passed away in August 2009. "We're gonna rock the rest of this show for Richie," announced Barerre, to great cheers from the crowd. It seemed that each song unraveled into a furious jam, each talented player getting their own solo time, their pleasure in playing radiating from the stage.
As I watched on while Kenny Gradney played bass with his whole body and the vast and lively congregation of greybearded, tie-dye-wearing fans (and some younger fans, too) swayed in the pit in front of the stage, I was reminded of all the young bands still in search of the perfect jam--the recent Iron & Wine show at First Avenue, where Beam delved into jazz fusion, and the Rock the Garden set from My Morning Jacket. It's somewhat satisfying, and definitely encouraging, to note that the pursuit of musical ecstasy is a continuing tradition, passed down from one rock era to another--even now, in 2011, when emerging bands live and die on the internet and truly groundbreaking musicianship is half (or more) computer-generated.
And through it all, Barrere kept the sense of humor you would have to expect of a band whose lineup hasn't changed all that much, who still routinely brings to life classic songs like "Dixie Chicken" and "Willin'" decades after those songs were well-known concert requests.
"That's great," Barrere encouraged the audience after a sing-along to "Willin'". "Now, for the next part of the song, you will sing 'Don't bogart that joint' while we will perform the Jamaican National Anthem. You'd be astounded how similar they sound," he smiled slyly. And when the audience did join in for that chorus, Barrere cajoled them: "Oh, I think you can do that a little louder. Come on, it's Sunday--pretend you're at church!"
Critic's Bias: I was first introduced to Little Feat in middle school by my mother. Growing up on that roots sound is probably to blame for my present inclination towards throwback Americana and lo-fi indie rock.
The Crowd: Mostly like what you would expect to see at a Grateful Dead show.
Overheard in the Crowd: As Barrere asked, "Is Minnesota a green state yet?", various members in the audience screamed out, "Almost!" and "Today it is!" (To which Barrere snarkily replied, "Well, if the government ever goes back to work, you can suggest that.")
Random Notebook Dump: You can officially expect to see a new Little Feat album out in September of this year--their 16th studio album.
Feel the Groove
Blues Keep Coming
One Breathe At A Time
Skin It Back
New Delhi Freight Train
Let It Roll