LIVE: Dave Mason & Steve Cropper Rock & Soul Revue @ The Egg, 8/22/18 (Take Two)

Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Duke Ellington once said “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.” Dave Mason and Steve Cropper chose a set list that pretty much guaranteed goodness, so the only real surprise was that their performance flowed smoothly and somehow seemed cohesive even though the two principals frequently ceded the spotlight to one another and to Mason’s talented backing group. The elemental Stax soul sound that Cropper popularized during his stint with Booker T. & the MGs meshed just fine with Mason’s fondness for classic rock.

Mason’s longtime trio (guitarist Johnne Sambataro, drummer Alvino Bennett and keyboardist Tony Patler) and guest vocalist Gretchen Rhodes opened the recent show at The Egg’s Hart Theatre with a brief set of their own. While the playing was unassailable, the song selection seemed a bit random, and the overall effect was that of watching a talented cover band. That said, Rhodes certainly belted out “The Gypsy in Me” and “Chain of Fools” with authority.

Cropper’s exquisite guitar tone was a joy to behold as the full band eased into “In the Midnight Hour.” The contrasting styles of Cropper and Mason were readily evident, Cropper eschewing effects altogether while Mason had a bag of tricks at his feet, as when he used a wah-wah pedal on “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave.”
Mason switched to acoustic guitar for “We Just Disagree,” harmonizing beautifully with Rhodes on this appealing power ballad. Then Mason left the stage and Sambataro switched to keyboards as the stripped-down ensemble launched into the MGs’ classic “Green Onions.” Cropper’s fretwork was mesmerizing: every note necessary and impeccably placed.

This portion of the set didn’t really need a second guitarist, and Mason should be credited for having the humility to realize this and cede the spotlight. Cropper led the rest of the band into “Knock on Wood,” a moving rendition of “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby” with Rhodes on vocals and “Hip Hug-Her.”

Mason re-entered the fray for a bluesy three-guitar take on Traffic’s classic “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” Perhaps the highlight of the evening came during the intro to Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” one of the few times that Cropper played lead guitar on a song more associated with Mason. It was wonderful to hear his distinctive tone so prominent on a song he wasn’t previously known for.

Astute pacing and an intuitive feel for dynamics helped make the evening so successful, as the band slowed things down for “Try a Little Tenderness” and (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” before revving up again with “Only You Know and I Know” and another nod to Mason’s tenure (tenures really, as he quit the band three different times!) with Traffic, “Feelin’ Alright.”

In the Midnight Hour
Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave
We Just Disagree
Green Onions
Knock on Wood
When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
Hip Hug-Her
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Dear Mr. Fantasy
Can’t Find My Way Home
Try A Little Tenderness
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay
Only You Know and I Know
Feelin’ Alright
All Along the Watchtower
Shake, Rattle and Roll
Soul Man

LIVE: Dave Mason & Steve Cropper Rock & Soul Revue @ The Egg, 8/22/18

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