LIVE: Johnny Morse All-Stars Puts a Sheen on Chrome, 11/15/2019
The Johnny Morse All Stars show at Chrome in Waterford on Friday, November 15, was one of those shows that make the 518 area legendary for its rock talent.
Some artists dream of grabbing the gold ring, but in Waterford, John IS the gold ring. After incredibly eclectic performances by 5 Daze Out, Harmony Rocks, Johnny Clifford and Tom Atkins. The volume was pumped up to over 120 DBs halfway into a four-plus hour musical smorgasbord, and John held court with nine musicians including Luke McNamee of Blue Hand Luke legend on sax.
Morse launched into a version of “Let The Good Times Roll” like an over the top David Lee Roth. This rockin’ gang was spot on musically. And the fans, many of whom had been dancing or staying in the back of the club, came forward and stood, transfixed, absorbing the music like a ray from an alien invader. Morse brought to life anthems including “Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love,” “Rock Me Baby,” and his own “Movin’ Back to Cohoes” as if they were being sung for the first time. “I’m not goin’ to Hawaii. I’m not goin’ to Chicago or Florida,” he declared. “I’m movin’ back to Cohoes.”
I’ve seen The Stones 11 times in 54 years, and Tommy Love is the only act that takes me to that same place. Covering “Miss You,” “Sympathy for The Devil” and “Brown Sugar,” Tommy became Mick Jagger. To say that he copies Jagger is an insult to his genius. It’s as if he becomes possessed by Jagger’s spirit in his vocals and in his moves. He also did the same thing on Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll, embracing Robert Plant’s persona, going down on the mike and waving his hand over an imaginary piano.
More than half the crowd had left after four hours of blistering rock and roll when Kristen Capolino took the stage and played Buddy Guy to Johnny Morse’s Keith Richards in guitar duels on Jimi’s “Voodoo Chile,” “Foxy Lady,” and “Rockin’ in The Free World.” Originally from Romania, this diminutive rocker from the Hudson Valley is smooth, lucid, never loose, and always right.
A good live music performance captures your spirit and inoculates you with a vaccine that makes whatever disease that threatens your soul go away. A great concert eliminates the distance between you and the artist. The familiar saying that the whole equals more than the sum of its parts applies. The distance between the stage and the fans is erased. Everyone shares their joy and emotionally, sometimes physically, embraces this communal experience. You’re in a comforting cocoon protected by an invisible shield that locks out the rest of the world. The concert IS the world, and it becomes nirvana. That magic happened at The Chrome.
Slaves experienced this sweet spot in spirituals. In blues its termed call and response where the audience reacts to the message in the music and verbally eggs on the performers to ever higher levels of ecstasy. I felt it in Vietnam when I went to the NCO club and listened to crack Filipino bands close the night with The Animals’ hit “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” I escaped from hell to heaven, if for only a brief moment. The Grateful Dead and The Stones have always transported me to a separate universe where the music is God, and I’m a believer. In more than 40 years as the music journalist for the Troy Record I often felt like I was in a call and response mode with the local rock heroes – and by local I mean – east of the river: Troy, Cohoes, Lansingburgh, Waterford, Watervliet.
It’s become a cliché to say this embrace of performer and fan is “family.” It’s family where no one is dysfunctional, and an artist like rocker John Morse is king. Morse has been rocking Waterford’s plimsoll for almost three decades, and on Friday, November 15th he held court in a bar called The Chrome out on highway 4 within the glaring lights of industrial monoliths, two miles from downtown Waterford. It was the northeast equivalent to a Saturday night fish fry in rural Mississippi, a rent party for folks who made the cares of the workaday world disappear. And, as God would say, it was good. It was very good.
A show like this makes me secure in the knowledge that my decades of chronicling local music has not been wasted. Our musicians are a treasure.