The folks who book the shows at our local casino do a great job of mixing a variety of styles and getting some surprisingly big names. Combine that with tickets priced to get people in the door and shows timed to drive them onto the casino floor sooner than later, and you have a winner.
On Tuesday night, I saw Sammy Hagar and the Wabos (along with Michael Anthony) out at the Oneida ballroom. I have no music by Hagar in my collection, and he is an acquired taste, but I have come to greatly enjoy his live shows.
The first time I saw Hagar, four years ago, he was the second act on a double bill with Lynyrd Skynyrd. I really wanted to see Skynyrd, and it was great. But the wait between shows lasted forever, the crowd kept getting drunker and rowdier, and I’d already been standing for a good 4 hours, so I left before Hagar’s show ended.
But then I read something about Hagar being the new Jimmy Buffett, with shows celebrating sun, fun and a particular brand of tequila. I thought about that, and started wishing I’d stayed for the show that night. I’ve seen Hagar twice since.
I’ve seen Buffett three times, though not in more than a decade. I’ve enjoyed those shows, but have found the Hagar hardcores to be just a tad more authentic than the Parrotheads. Not quite as polished. A little more rough-edged.
What I enjoy most about Hagar’s shows is their energy. There’s always stuff from the Montrose days to the solo days to the Van Halen days to the present, with a couple of covers mixed in.
All the while, Hagar is your revved-up, smiling emcee, sipping drinks, ogling the ladies, signing autographs from the stage, wrapping himself in homemade banners. Oh, and he can still sing and he can still play. As can Anthony, a gracious, easygoing guy.
Yet it isn’t possible to see everything they bring to the casino, and so it was last month when I couldn’t make it out there to see the Fabulous Thunderbirds. It’s probably been 20 years since I last saw them at the old Headliners club in Madison, Wisconsin.
Led by singer and harmonica player Kim Wilson, the Fabulous Thunderbirds started out in Austin in the mid-’70s by cranking out Texas-flavored blues. Today, according to the band’s web site, Wilson is the only original member left, and the tunes are more roots music than straight blues.
The last time I bought something by the Thunderbirds, it was “The Essential Fabulous Thunderbirds Collection,” a 1991 CD compilation of the best stuff from their first four albums. It’s a pretty good guide to their best.
Here, though, are a couple more from those early albums:
“Los Fabulosos Thunderbirds,” the Fabulous Thunderbirds, from “What’s the Word?” 1980. This is a little instrumental bit, and that’s bass player Keith Ferguson making like a DJ on Mexican radio.
“Roll, Roll, Roll,” the Fabulous Thunderbirds, from “Butt Rockin’,” 1982. They’re backed by members of Roomful of Blues on horns and keyboards on this album. This is a cover of a 1957 B side by Lonnie Brooks, sometimes known as Guitar Junior and one of the T-Birds’ favorites.
Now let’s have a little fun. Here are the T-Birds, helping out on a familiar Bo Diddley tune. It’s not from one of their albums, though. Guess who one of the guitarists is.
“You Do You Love?”
… by Carlos Santana, from “Havana Moon,” 1983.