LIVE: Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience @ College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, 3/14/15

Terrance Simien
Terrance Simien

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Fred Rudofsky

In the middle of a cold, wet, blustery Saturday, veteran singer-accordionist Terrance Simien and his five-piece band, the Zydeco Experience, blew into the Massry Center for the Arts at the College of Saint Rose like a warm Louisiana bayou breeze, tearing through a wide swath of zydeco variations and a hearty dose of southern hospitality.

Mardi Gras rolled around on the calendar back in February, but clearly every day is Mardi Gras with Terrance Simien, and he wasn’t even halfway through his upbeat opening selection when he put down his accordion, reached into a knapsack and pulled out a big handful of green, purple and gold Mardi Gras beads, which he gleefully tossed into the enthusiastic crowd. The band kept pumping out the infectious zydeco groove, Simien kept tossing out beads, and the audience kept shouting and clammoring for more. The barefoot Simien didn’t disappoint, throwing beads all throughout his two-hour show until it seemed as though nearly every person in the theater was wearing at least one set of beads.

Whatever barriers might have existed between the musicians and the crowd were immediately broken down, never to be erected again. Several times throughout the show, an audience member on the dance floor grabbed a spare rubboard from the edge of the stage, playing along with the band. And every time Simien brought them up on stage to join the band. It wasn’t a concert; it was a party in every sense of the word – which is not to say that the music was anything less than top-notch.

Led by longtime musical director-keyboardist Danny Williams (short of stature, but packed with talent), the Zydeco Experience chugged through Simien’s original zydeco gems (“All Her Lovin'” was a particular standout), several of which were sung in Creole French with no translation necessary other than Simien’s ever-present ear-to-ear grin.

Along the way, they also paid tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley (“Stop That Train” and a heart-wrenching rendition of “No Woman, No Cry”), Rick Danko and the Band (the rousing final encore of “The Weight”) and the Jackson Five (an instrumental version of “I Want You Back”). Simien was at his most sublimely soulful on the first encore, a towering a cappella take on Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” and a surprise slow-dance ballad rendition of Gale Garnett’s 1964 hit, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.”

The concert was billed as NOLA Fest, and Simien dug right into the Mardi Gras Indian anthem, “Hey Pocky Way,” early on, as well as serving up a sprawling, show-closing New Orleans medley that mashed up “Iko Iko,” “When the Saints Come Marchin’ In,” “Brother John” and “Jambalya.”

Laissez les bon temps rouler, indeed…

Fred Rudofsky’s review at Nippertown
Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Nobody left the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center last Saturday without a smile, sore feet and some beads: Zydeco master Terrance Simien tossed tons of bright loops into the dancing crowd but handed the giant silver one from his mic stand to the smallest kid in the place. The Louisiana singer-accordionist challenged, ‘You gotta feel this in your feet; you can’t feel it in your seat!’ — so everybody danced and the music earned it. Simien and the boys lit up ‘Zydeco Boogaloo’ and other dances, some in French, some Meters’ funk, reggae (‘Stop That Train,’ ‘No Woman, No Cry’), Mardi Gras Indian chants, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ — a stunning a cappella vocal — some classic rock, then they wrapped with The Band’s ‘The Weight.’ Rockin’!”

NOTE: The Massry Center for the Arts brings more Louisiana music – soulful, funky and slathered over with plenty of hot sauce – when the great Funky Meters (featuring Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Brian Stoltz and Terrence Houston) take the stage at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 16. Tickets are $45; $25 for students.

Danny Williams
Danny Williams
Dueling washboards
Dueling washboards
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