Review & photographs by Ed Conway
As we were getting ready to leave for the show, reports began to come in regarding an attack in Paris. Since this was early in the reporting, casualty numbers were still rather low. It wasn’t until we had arrived at Club Helsinki in Hudson that the full story began to emerge. This event was not lost on Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. They had been following the events closely, as their frequent tours to Europe and other music festivals has garnered them many friends. Luckily, at the time, it appeared they were all safe.
At one point during the show, Big Sandy made an emotional tribute to those lost during this terrible tragedy. This pent up emotion may have led the band to perform one of the best shows I have ever seen of theirs, and I have seen some great ones. The band was firing on all cylinders, and the crowd responded to this energy, which led the band to elevate their game even higher. Ever the charmer, Big Sandy’s ongoing connection with the audience seesawed between conversation with old and new friends and good natured ribbing that made everyone feel part of the show (including a couple of people who may have had a little too much to drink and felt that they may have been the show).
Backed by his stellar Fly-Rites, Big Sandy put on the pressure beginning with “Heaven Is the Other Way” from their 2003 release It’s Time (an album he hit pretty hard this night) and never let up through the last song, “Catalina,” also from the same album.
The band has been around for nearly 30 years with lead guitarist Ashley Kingman having been there from the beginning. Watching him play, one would get an idea that he’s just goofing around, until you listen to what he’s actually playing and realize how seriously he takes it. Helping lay down the beat is the always-smiling Kevin Stewart on upright bass and harmony vocals. Watching him, you can see what many upright players aspire to; he’s a how-to guide on playing slap bass. The newest Fly-Rite is drummer Ricky McCann, who joined them for their European tour a couple of months ago. His talent and personality make it seem as though he’s been there forever, as he fits right in with the onstage antics of the band.
There were many highlights throughout the two-hour show – from favorite songs such as “Hey Lowdown” and “Chalk It Up To The Blues” to Big Sandy’s interactions with the audience members, so I’ll just pick out a couple. One of my personal favorite Big Sandy songs, “Tequila Calling” is always a highlight for me. Andleading off the three-song encore was the reggae beat of “When I Fall in Love” featuring just Big Sandy and Stewart, while Kingman and McCann looked on. I was a nice, unexpected shift in rhythms, and the stripped down instrumentation added to the beauty of the song.
The entire evening was a welcome respite from the real world problems outside the door. It was a giant party, and everyone was having the best time despite the terrible actions in Paris; or maybe it was because of them that we needed an emotional release.
If you had to categorize Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, I supposed it would be Western Swing/Rockabilly style of music, but I would just call them good old fashioned rock and roll. If you haven’t seen them, do yourself a favor and check them out the next time they come through town.
BIG SANDY & THE FLY-RITE BOYS SET LIST
Heaven Is The Other Way
Love That Man
Hip Shakin Mama
Yama Yama Pretty Mama
How Did You Love Someone Like Me?
Fly-Rite Boys Instrumental
My Sinful Days Are Over (And Over Again)
Little Cabin Home On the Hill
If You Fall Out of Love With Me
The Ones You Say You Love
(Marie’s the Name) Of His Latest Flame
Greatest Story Ever Told
Chalk It Up to the Blues
When I Fall in Love
Don’t Sweetheart Me