LIVE: Albert Cummings @ the Massry Center for the Arts, 6/9/18
Review by Don Wilcock
Forget that the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts is a squeaky clean facility cloaked in cushy sound baffles throughout the ceiling and along all the walls. Forget that Albert Cummings last year put out the polished live concert CD/ DVD Live at the ’62 Center, recorded in his hometown Williamstown with several originals from recent albums. Forget that the concert had been promoted with a 90-minute pledge week presentation of the DVD on WMHT-TV with Cummings looking just slightly out of place being interviewed by one of the stations’ pitchmen asking Mr. Rogers-like questions about Cummings’ rockin’ bluz. Forget that the TV presentation helped to nearly sell out the 400-seat theater months before the show.
No, Albert Cummings’ concert last weekend – produced by the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall – was pure roadhouse blues: honking, unpolished, unrehearsed, sand-in-your-shoes loud, and raucous to the end. He custom-tailored this show for an adoring hometown crowd, some of whom arrived in two rented buses from Western Massachusetts. The majority looked like middle-aged business people at a city hall hearing when they walked in, but they responded like a gaggle of AC/DC fans on a weekend pass from Fort Dix. And for an hour and 50 minutes, a relaxed but ready Cummings kicked out the bolts on those ceiling baffles, got right down into the dirt and splashed in the puddles.
Oh, it was perfect old-line, down home Swamp Yankee Albert: deliciously gritty, stripped, ripped and ready for bear.
Toward the end of the show, he dove head-first into the classic R&B standard “Fever,” stopped and almost giggled as he admitted he’d never done the song before, had no idea where to go with it. But what the heck, it was that kind of night.
We all knew from the first note, we were cruising without helmets. No keyboards, no background singers, just Cummings with a double-jointed, jack-in-the-box Warren Grant who got a standing ovation for his drum solo, and Scot Sutherland, Cummings’ ace-in-the-hole bassist from the heartland hiding behind sun glasses and way too many hipsters clothes for the 80-degree weather. Stoic, feet straddled and expressionless, he put the hammer down and never missed the beat.
There was a smattering of Cummings originals from years of recording, but the standout numbers were Freddie King’s “I’m Going Down:” “I’m going down, down, down, down, down/Yes, I’ve got my feet in the window/Got my head on the ground.” And “My Time After While,” the blues standard covered by Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, John Mayall,
John Hammond and more. On these and his own songs, he went stream-of-consciousness, extrapolating into long, luxurious improvs.
He didn’t do an encore. He didn’t have to. Everyone had already gotten what they came for.