LIVE: Big Head Blues Club @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 11/16/16
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Additional photograph by Glenn Kaplowitz
The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall wasn’t packed to the rafters last night, but it should have been. Onstage was a generation of blues masters, led by Korean-German-American Todd Park Mohr, who pulled it all together and dubbed it the Big Head Blues Club.
The band featured Mud Morganfield (Muddy Waters’ son), Ronnie Baker Brooks (Lonnie Brooks’ son), Billy Branch (one of Chicago’s hottest harp players for over four decades) and Erica Brown (a howlin’ blues belter in the Ruth Brown tradition) in the front line with Colorado-based rock-and-blues band Big Head Todd & the Monsters backing the ensemble of masters.
They were scheduled to play 90 minutes and then come out to the lobby to sign some autographs. Yet the magic of the Hall – the same magic that sucks in almost every musician who plays there – was in abundance for this superlative blues performance. So… the show started punctually at 7:30pm, and the music didn’t stop til 9:45pm. That not only says a lot about the music, but also about the audience, as they coaxed the band back for one encore blues gem after another.
At the beginning of the evening, Big Head Todd announced to the crowd that this wasn’t going to be a usual Big Head Todd & the Monsters concert. They wouldn’t be playing the regular repertoire of songs that they’ve been honing since the release of their debut album back in 1989. Instead, they were there to honor and pay loving tribute to the rich songbag of the legendary Willie Dixon, second only to Muddy Waters in the post-World War II renaissance of the Chicago blues. Electrified and biting with a signature stinging guitar attack, it was a sound that was honed to perfection by the legendary masters of the day – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Rogers and, of course, Willie Dixon.
That’s the sound that rockers like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, The Who and even the Allman Brothers Band used as a guiding light as they crafted the blues-rock sound of the late ’60s.
Big Head Todd & the Monsters are no strangers to Greater Nippertown, having played at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in addition to sold-out concerts at the Palace Theatre and The Egg. So their fans knew that they couldn’t go wrong with what could only be called a blues extravaganza headed by Big Head Todd, his band, his friends and his mentors.
The concert was edgy, abrasive and all so amazingly soulful. The blues-drenched evening was filled with highs and lows, a full range of emotional dynamics, sizzling lead guitar solos, gut-wrenching vocals, howlin’ harp playing and everything else that a blues fan would want to hear or imagine.
Simply put, if you weren’t there, well, you missed one of the best Greater Nippertown blues concerts in the last decade or so.