Review by Greg Haymes
Video by Brian Mulkerne
They hadn’t played together since the Jimmy Carter administration, but you wouldn’t have known it judging by their first performance in more than 35 years. The original line-up of Silver Chicken, one of the Local 518’s premiere country-rock combos of the mid ’70s, reunited for a string a four shows at the Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs last weekend, and the years just seemed to melt away.
The first of their three shows on Saturday (May 4) – at the ungodly hour (by rock & roll standards, at least) of 3pm – was not only a blast from the past. It was simply a blast.
Vocalist-guitarist Jim Fish has called Oklahoma his home since 1989, but he made his way back to the Capital Region, joining forces with his former bandmates Rick Bedrosian (bass), Todd Nelson (guitar) and Ted Were (drums), augmented by second drummer Mark Foster.
And even before they cranked up their first tune – Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” – you knew exactly where these guys were coming from. As Fish slipped his guitar over his shoulder, it was plain to see the photo of the late great Byrds’ guitarist Clarence White pasted just below the tailpiece. A couple of songs later, Fish switched over to his Roger McGuinn model 12-string Rickenbacker for a shimmering rendition of the Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better.” Yeah, these guys weren’t shy about their influences…
They included a few more Byrds tunes in their set list, too – from the dark swamp-rock of “Lover of the Bayou” (featuring some adventurously angular solos from Nelson) to the playful “Mr. Spaceman” (with Bedrosian taking over the lead vocal for a verse) to the chuggin’, Chuck Berry-ish “Tiffany Queen.”
Foster anchored the rhythm, allowing Were to splash around the percussive accents and vocal harmonies. And the band’s harmonies were solid throughout, from the honky tonk swing of “Six Pack to Go” to the solid blues groove of “Baby, What You Want Me to Do,” from the CSNY call-to-arms “Ohio” to the bluegrass-flavored rendition of the Outlaws’ “Knoxville Girl.”
The clutch of reunion shows also served as a CD release party for the band’s 35-years-in-the-making CD, Storm Ride (October Eve Records), so naturally enough they showcased a handful of original tunes from the album. The hot-wired instrumental “Do the Chicken” stood out as the highlight, but the fugitive-on-the-run tune “Fox Hunt” and the novelty, lounge-jazz sizzle of “Freddy the Frog” also helped to shine a spotlight on the multi-faceted talent onstage.
It wasn’t all picture-perfect by any means. There was a bit of a drum kerfuffle during “Do the Chicken,” and a false start on the encore of “Knoxville Girl,” when Fish blanked on the opening lyrics. But after 35 years and minimal rehearsal time, a bit of rust is to be expected, and they were minor flaws. I’m guessing that the next three shows of the Silver Chicken reunion run probably ran a little smoother. But not too smooth, I hope… If all goes well, we’ll have the opportunity to hear for ourselves, as Ace Parkhurst was on hand to record the shows for a possible upcoming live Silver Chicken album.
And let’s give a hearty shout-out to the McKrells, too, for a rousing, six-song opening set. With their trademark fusion of bluegrass and Celtic music, vocalist-guitarist Kevin McKrell, fiddler Doug Moody, banjoman Chris Leske and (not too surprisingly doing double duty) bassist Rick Bedrosian ripped through gems like Jimmy MacCarthy’s “Ride On” and Django Reinhardt’s Gypsy jazz classic “Minor Swing,” as well as such solid originals as “Old Black Coat” and “I Don’t Remember.”
SILVER CHICKEN SET LIST
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Bob Dylan)
Six-Pack to Go (Hank Thompson)
I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better When You’re Gone (the Byrds)
Lover of the Bayou (the Byrds)
Do the Chicken
Mr. Spaceman (the Byrds)
Baby, What You Want Me to Do (Jimmy Reed)
Freddy the Frog
Tiffany Queen (the Byrds)
Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Knoxville Girl (the Outlaws) > Foggy Mountain Breakdown