It was the day of two Macs. See Taylor Mac at Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park or Mac Rebennack at Summerstage in Central Park? While rtb opted for Brooklyn, violaleeblue, mollyT, and I went to see Dr. John and the Nite Trippers at Summerstage. Once again, NYC proves to be the place to see free music in the summer.
We found a nice spot in the bleachers that to our surprise got shady and stayed that way the entire afternoon. Opener Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers had a small but dedicated crowd. Helm has a lot to live up to with Levon Helm and Libby Titus as her parents (and Donald Fagen as her stepfather). Helm told a story about Dr. John being the carpool driver when she was in the second grade. Can you imagine?
Helm has a pleasant voice – slightly bluesy with a small country twinge. She plays guitar and mandolin and the Handsome Strangers add guitar, bass, drums and percussion. She did two covers: “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and “Atlantic City,” which The Band covered. I can’t say I was overwhelmed by Helm. I’d seen her perform with her father and was more impressed then.
The Nite Trippers started playing and Dr. John made his slow entrance. In his late 70s, he needs a little help getting to the piano but once he’s playing you forget about his age. We heard jazz and honky tonk and blues – in other words we heard New Orleans. We heard favorites like “Iko Iko,” “Mardi Gras Day,” “Right Place Wrong Time,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Goodnight Irene,” and “Such a Night.” For some of them, Dr. John changed the melody so much that the songs were almost unrecognizable. We heard songs from his latest albums. Dr. John played keyboards and guitar in addition to the piano. The band (guitar, bass, drums) was led very well by trombonist Sarah Morrow. In addition to introducing the band, Dr. John also introduced the front and back of house sound engineers, tour manager, and personal assistant, which I thought was a nice touch.
We were disappointed that with all his personality that Dr. John did not interact more with audience. He simply played one song after another with no breaks. How much more fun it would have been if he told some of the wonderful stories of his life and these songs?
By Carene Lydia Lopez