More than a few folks in the crowd at The Egg on Friday night were wearing a look of surprise when Hot Tuna took the stage with an extra guitarist – G.E. Smith. As if Jorma just wasn’t enough.
But the truth of the matter was that Smith – who’s been playing with the band for about a month now – seemed to settle right into the Hot Tuna scheme of things quite nicely without much disruption at all.
In fact, the triple-guitar attack struck a sweet balance right from the opening volley of “Serpent of Dreams.” Barry Mitterhoff – who spent most of the night playing mandolin – was firing off some riffs on his guitar with a flatpick. Jorma Kaukonen stood centerstage working some spider-like fingerpicking. And Smith held court at stage left adding a healthy dose of slide guitar sizzle to the sonic mix.
And while Kaukonen is a truly masterful guitarist, he’s only an adequate singer – at best. So it was a pleasant shifting of gears when Smith stepped up to the microphone to handle the lead vocal chores on the rumbling train blues of “Empire State” and the R&B romp of “Messin’ With the Kid,” reclaiming it from the Blues Brothers.
And while there were a few other new numbers thrown into the mix – highlighted by the rocker “If This Is Love, I Want My Money Back,” which Kaukonen described as “the anti-‘Genesis'” – it was the tried true favorites (like “Genesis” and the scorchin’, no-holds-barred throwdown jam of “Funky #7”) that the crowd cheered the loudest.
Steve Earle opened the show with a generous, 70-minute solo set that leaned heavily on his greatest hits and included only one tune – the classic “Pancho & Lefty” – from his latest album, “Townes,” a tribute to singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
“I’ve written a lot of songs – because I didn’t die,” he admitted. “That’s the way it is.” And he reeled off more than a dozen of them from the tough (“Copperhead Road”) to the tender (“Goodbye”), but he topped them all with his closing offering, “This City,” which honored the resilience and perseverance of the people of New Orleans.
Earle also returned at the end of the night to lead Hot Tuna through a rousing rendition of “Hometown Blues” for the show-closing encore.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
HOT TUNA SET LIST
featuring Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals), Jack Casady (bass), Barry Mitterhoff (guitar, mandolin), Skoota Warner (drums), G.E. Smith (guitar)
Serpent of Dreams
Come Back, Baby
Ode for Billy Dean
Living Just for You
Talkin’ Bout You
Messin’ With the Kid
Rock Me, Baby
99 Year Blues
If This Is Love, I Want My Money Back
Hometown Blues (with Steve Earle)
STEVE EARLE SET LIST
Christmas in Washington
The Devil’s Right Hand
Rich Man’s War
My Old Friend the Blues
Pancho & Lefty
Tom Ames’ Prayer
City of Immigrants