LIVE: Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience @ the Massry Center, 3/14/15 (Take Two)
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Two-time Grammy award-winning Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience brought the spirit of Louisiana to the Massry Center at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, transforming the sit-down venue into a Saturday night get-down party with many old friends (given the band’s long history of playing in Nippertown) and quite a few new friends, too.
Decked out in a hat from Mali, black shirt and blue jeans, the barefoot Simien got a hero’s welcome when he and his band took the stage. The bayou and the Caribbean intermingled in “Dance Everyday,” an opening call that nobody could resist for long. Josh Lazo’s tenor sax doubled Simien’s accordion lines; Stan Chambers slapped the six-string bass with all sorts of funky effects; and Simien tossed beaded necklaces far and wide into the audience.
Imaginative risk-taking and reverence for his roots have been hallmarks of Simien’s 32-year musical career, which began in his teens. Buckwheat Zydeco’s “Zydeco Boogaloo” gave way to snatches of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” “We just drove 450 miles to be here. We made it, y’all!” exclaimed Simien prior to the Wailers’ classic “Stop That Train,” which was dedicated to Ralph Fontenot, the band’s longtime frottoir master, who passed away in his sleep last October after a concert in Louisville.
An awesome Meters medley propelled by Oreun Joubert’s drumming, Danny Williams’ deft keyboards and Eric Johanson’s fluid guitar was dedicated to audience member Clifford Bird, the principal of Abram Lansing Elementary School, which had hosted Simien and his band for a zydeco-in-the-schools program. In the midst of a riotous take on Boozoo Chavis’ “Dog Hill,” Simien joined Lazo on second frottoir briefly before donning his accordion and rocking out for a 10-minute jam to the delight of the full dance floor.
Did I mention the Grammy Award? Simien earned it last year for Dockside Sessions, and for good reasons. A trio of selections from that album – “C’est Mon Temps Danse,” “T’Connais Moi Te L’Aime,” and “Dans la Maison des Chien” – formed the center of the set and stood out for their energy, deep country-waltz groove and irrepressible good will respectively. Two children from the audience were handed frottoir and spoons and got to join the band on “Don’t Forget the Mamou” – Simien was impressed by their enthusiasm, and exclaimed, “Ralph Fontenot would be proud!”
Rightly known for his instrumental prowess, Simien should also be regarded as one of the best vocalists of our time. He took Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” to gospel heights, introduced his own “All Her Lovin'” with an effortless a capella preface and blended the styles of Aaron Neville and Bo Dollis in a “feel-it-in-your-feet” medley of “Iko Iko/When the Saints Go Marchin’ In/Brother John/Jambalaya” that had the audience clamoring for more.
In the first encore, Simien obliged with a glorious solo take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”, which he dedicated to the courageous marchers of Selma in 1965. Re-joined by his band, Simien established a hard funk groove for a one-two punch of Stephen Stills’s “Love the One You’re With” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” A die-hard fan of the Band, he gave a shout out to the late Richard Manuel, Levon Helm and Rick Danko as he shared memories of playing the Bearsville Theatre. “The Weight” was a perfect showcase for all in the Zydeco Experience, each musician displaying imagination, joy and soul in his playing.
After the show, Simien signed autographs and posed for photographs for well over an hour. As a show of gratitiude, he offered each fan a chance to hold the 2014 Grammy Award trophy. “Thank you for supporting me and my band, zydeco music and Louisiana culture!” he said with a smile.
Greg Haymes’ review and Fred Rudofsky’s photographs 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’!”
TERRANCE SIMIEN & THE ZYDECO EXPERIENCE SET LIST
Zydeco Boogaloo > I Want You Back
Stop That Train
Hey Pocky a Way > Fire on the Bayou > People Say
C’est Mon Temps Danse
We’ll Sing in the Sunshine
Mardi Gras in the Country
T’Connais Moi Te L’Aime
Dans la Maison des Chien
Don’t Forget the Mamou
No Woman No Cry
All Her Lovin’
Iko Iko > When the Saints Go Marchin’ In > Brother John > Jambalaya
A Change Is Gonna Come
Love the One You’re With
You Can’t Always Get What You Want