“My name is Greg Bell, and I’ve been booking shows here for seven years,” announced the head of Guthrie Bell Productions on Thursday night from the stage of Revolution Hall.
“Of all of the places that I’ve booked shows, this is my favorite,” he added. “Sadly, this is the last real show here at Revolution Hall. But there’s no way that I’d rather go out than with … 7 Walkers.”
And so it was a bittersweet night in Troy. Some great music, to be sure, but also a sad farewell to what was once Nippertown’s finest live music club venue.
There’s no question that for 99 percent of the crowd, the draw that brought them out to see 7 Walkers was drummer Bill Kreutzmann – of the Grateful Dead. And that quite understandable. The opportunity to watch a member of a superstar band like the Dead perform up-close in an intimate club setting is certainly enticing.
On the other hand, being the die-hard New Orleans music fans that we are, the primary attraction for us was the bottom-end funkmeister himself, bassist George Porter, Jr.
And no one went away disappointed.
In fact, the music of 7 Walkers – which also featured New Orleans vocalist-guitarist (and the bandleader) Papa Mali and keyboardist Matt Hubbard – was a near-perfect blend, sounding more than a bit like what we imagine the Dead would have sounded like if they’d spent their formative years in the Crescent City rather than San Francisco.
The opening instrumental jam evolved into the Dead nugget “Mr. Charlie,” with Hubbard pounding his way through a rumblin’ honky-tonkin’ solo.
“Death Don’t Have No Mercy” was transmorgified into a stuttering, butt-shakin’ New Orleans street parade blues, as Papa Mali howled against the darkness, while Hubbard wailed through a dynamic one-person duet – playing a riff on his keyboard and answering himself back with a variation on trombone. The very definition of a multi-instrumentalist.
And perhaps it was no surprise that the Dead and New Orleans would come together most effectively on “7 Walkers,” the recent Robert Hunter song that gave the band its name. Starting off with an almost-solemn church organ intro, the fab foursome fused together the Dead’s expansive jam-band sensibilites with syncopated second-line rhythms and the greasy blues of Papa Mali’s slide guitar work.
Connecticutt wunderkinds the McLovins opened the show with an hour-long powerhouse performance that melded jam-band funk with heady progressive jazz fusion. They opened with a cosmic re-invention of the old Duke Ellington gem, “Caravan,” that turned the classic on its head.
Part Archie Bell & the Drells, part Yngwie Malmsteen, part “Regatta de Blanc”-era Police, the titanic, teenaged power trio ripped the heads off the crowd with their original material, then roared back with an encore – the Dead’s classic “Shakedown Street” – that bridged whatever generation gap might still be standing.
Read David Singer’s review in The Daily Gazette
NOTE: 7 Walkers was the final national act to play at Rev Hall, but not actually the very last show. Several bands – including Kookarooza, Short of a Miracle, Casanova Frankeinstein & the Disco Boys and others – play a tribute concert to Nick Castle on Sunday. Local favorites Sirsy play the final show on Friday, June 11.
7 WALKERS SET LIST
Death Don’t Have No Mercy
I Know You Rider
Bottle Up and Go
Hey Pocky Way
New Orleans Crawl
Turn On Your Lovelight
Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
We Bid You Goodnight
THE McLOVINS SET LIST
Deep Monster Trance
Beadhead Crystal Bugger
Shakedown Street > Rapper’s Delight
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk. See more of Andrzej’s photos from this show at the Nippertown Photo Archive.