Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A touch of grey

I just got back from the New Riders of the Purple Sage show at the Tractor Tavern.

It was the first time in several years that I've been to the Tractor and most of the crowd was my age. Lots of men with gray hair — and some of it in ponytails! I was surprised that I ran into only two people I know (both of them guitar players who were at the show to hear steel player Buddy Cage).

The New Riders gave a lovely performance. (As my friend Bear observed, "These guys don't call it in.") The highlight was "Garden of Eden," a sweet environmental anthem that features some of Dave Nelson's most distinctive Telecaster work and a Grateful Dead-style extended jam that wandered over into a Stones' cover and back.

"Garden" was written by John "Marmaduke" Dawson, who, unfortunately, is not performing with the group on their revival tour. But original members David Nelson (lead guitar) and Buddy Cage (pedal steel) were there, along with guitarist Michael Falzarano and bass player Ronnie Penque. Penque's singing delightfully channels the late Jerry Garcia — appropriate since Garcia often sat in with the New Riders when they opened for the Dead.

The New Riders are still a quirky but pungent band, capable of transporting a club full of Boomers back to the 1960s. The playing was better than I'd remembered it from recordings, though the vocals — well, they were just about the same: Someone sings the melody line and somebody else sings some notes that aren't in the melody line but are usually located somewhere in a higher register.

But, hey, it's very cool. You know?

The NRPS will be in Vancouver (BC) tomorrow night, Bellingham Thursday, and Portland Dec. 1.

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