For this show the beautiful Howard Gilman Opera House was packed and seemed equally divided between Black Keys fans and Dr. John fans. They were also a noisy bunch – I didn’t mind the woman behind me who kept shouting, “The doctor is in the house,” both before and after Dr. John hit the stage but there was also endless conversations happening all around me.
In front of the closed curtain a man walks across the stage and goes to a jukebox. It wasn’t until I read the Rolling Stone review (which includes a set list) that I found out that the jukebox had been playing all along and that the man was switching it off. Sitting up in the balcony I never heard it.
The curtain opens and the band is onstage and playing. Dr. John in an electric blue suit, fedora, and necklace is front and center sitting at the keyboards. There’s another keyboard at his right, a grand piano further right, and organ behind him. On the front keyboard is a skull. The piano has various percussive instruments and objects on it. There were prayer candles all over the stage.
Stage right is Auerbach, who led the band and lent an occasional backing vocal but otherwise just kept his head down playing. His guitar stayed in the background and was only featured briefly but it was heavy on the bottom as was fitting for the mood and music. Auerbach’s friend Brian Olive was next to him on guitar or with the horn section on tenor sax. Backing vocalists were the McCrary Sisters who gave the dark music the gospel lift it needed to keep from sinking down. Daptone and Antibalas regulars were on stage also – Nick Movshon on bass, Yoshi Takemasa on percussion, Aaron Johnson on trombone, Dave Guy on trumpet, and Leon Michels on baritone sax and keyboards. Max Weissenfeldt from Germany was on drums and if you didn’t already have Dr. John on stage then Weissenfeldt would have been the focus – from his low key hitting of the cymbals to (grand)standing at the end of almost every song. There were also vibes on stage, which is another instrument for the multi-talented Michels but he never touched them.
The band played the cd mixed in with some of Dr. John’s very early music and it all fit together perfectly. Auerbach has brought Dr. John back to the music of Gris-Gris that made so many of us first fall in love with him but with a darker quality because Auerbach had Dr. John dig deep into his past to create some very personal songs.
The show ended with Dr. John at the piano for a solo “Such a Night,” where he showed us all just why we love to hear him play. The band came out and joined The Night Tripper for one more song and then it was over all too soon.
The New York Times reviews both shows.
By Carene Lydia Lopez