LIVE: Eric Burdon @ The Egg, 5/19/13
Review by Don Wilcock
The biggest difference between most blues concerts and the average rock concert is that rock replaces the unblinking honesty of blues with bravado. Eric Burdon on Sunday night at The Egg gave us both. He turned half-century-old British Invasion hits with the Animals into four-color, 3-D juggernaut performances with a crack seven-piece band. He combined that with original new songs from the best album of his career, ’Til Your River Runs Dry, sprinkled in some electric blues standards and stood naked on the stage wearing well his 72 years of both soaring and crawling across the world, equal parts rock star and has-been.
Words like “venerable” and “gravitas” are not easily applied to aging rockers, especially British Invasion bands who served up refried American blues to a country that was ignoring artists like Nina Simone for pre-fab Philly pretty boys Fabian and Frankie Avalon in 1963, but when the Animals covered her “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” they touched a nerve in America’s youth. When Burdon covered it this time, the song indeed did have gravitas, and the aging baby boomers in the crowd sat slack-jawed and propelled so far into Burdon’s world that when he held the microphone out, hardly anyone sang along until he bitch-slapped them. “Wake up,” he ordered and the crowd snapped to attention and sang along.
Wearing dark glasses on a face so white, he looked like Claude Raines playing the Invisible Man in surgical gauze, Burdon stood naked fronting a band that at times approached orchestral in majesty: two percussionists Tony Braunagal and Willie Ingram, two guitarists Billy Watts and Slash lookalike Eric McFadden, bass player Terry Wilson, and bookended on stage by keyboardists Red Young and Teresa James. The gumbo was lightly spiced with Latin flavors, charged with rock insistence and grooved with the authority of a New Orleans funky Congo Square jam.
If you saw Burdon at Empire State Plaza in 2003 and 2007 you saw the scrapper, but you didn’t see the man with a band that could match his authority and zest for life. This band on Sunday night was well rehearsed and ready to match him and his rock scatting. “House of the Rising Sun,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “When I Was Young” took old Animals chestnuts into another dimension. “Before You Accuse Me” gave Clapton a bar height he can only hope to reach for. And “Boom, Boom,” “Crawling King Snake” and “Bo Diddley Special” can stand head to head with the works of the great post-war bluesmen Burdon idolizes.
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Burdon was in better-than-good voice, and a fine mood, giving ‘Spill the Wine’ a playful lilt, digging deep into the blues and giving the soul tunes a spunky bounce. His mood was at least in part because of his band. They made a ferocious and full sound that framed Burdon’s voice and the songs in forceful unity, tasteful Caribbean accents at times and strong harmony singing. The musical and emotional quality of it was superb, start to finish — in contrast to a reportedly lackluster Burdon show at the Empire State Plaza some summers ago. He’s back, and look out. Opener Erin Harkes said, as host of many open mics, Sunday was the first time she was actually happy to hear ‘The House of the Rising Sun’! A late addition to Burdon’s show, Harkes’s solo acoustic set made fans happy to hear her wave-form melodies, emphatic strumming and huge voice. One song challenged a partner to recognize ‘how special I am,’ and she made the crowd believe it. Even quiet songs — ‘Fall Out’ was a standout,” a potential country smash — built big momentum.”