California is the Place to Be….. Jackie Greene and the Modern Lives Band Take the Stage at Monterey’s Golden State Theatre

Photos and Review by Linda Tulett

Being a local to the Monterey Bay Area, I tend to get a little giddy when my favorite musicians come remotely close to town. That little giddy turns into full-blown glee when the venue is less than 10 from my front door. Scheduled for Friday, June 7that the Golden State Theatre, local-born Jackie Greene would take to the stage with is new, Modern Lives Band. Playing for only the second time in the greater bay areas (last year at the Fillmore in SF, which I sadly missed due to other contractual obligations) I knew for certain I needed to catch this. Hitting the record stores last year with two EPs, “Modern Lives Vol. 1” and “Modern Lives Vol. 2” we got our first taste of this new backing band. With a short but sweet tour last fall, if you blinked you may have missed it all, like me. Not this time.

Opening the night was Cris Jacobs (sans the ‘h’), also on the Blue Rose label, who was slightly familiar to me. I didn’t really know his music, but I had seen him before, and he did leave an impression. I caught him as he played solo at the Folktale Winery in Carmel Valley for one of their, “Live in the Vines,” events. I remember thinking I wanted to remember who he was, and, well, I’m horrible with names so when the night was over, while I had remembered his playing and singing, his name was gone. Poof. But opportunity knocks again and here he is, this time with a full band behind him, giving his music a much larger sound.

When you hear a musician for the first time (or second, in this case), sometimes your brain tries to connect the sound you are hearing to a sound you’ve heard before. Familiarity in the voice, in the rhythm, in the chord selection, wherever you hear it, or feel it. His voice was deep and engaging, a little reminiscent of Lyle Lovett, according to my ears, or possibly a little Marc Cohn, according to someone else’s ears. Filled with rolling rhythms and warm guitar, his music makes you feel like you’re rolling down the highway of life, with the sun on your face and the wind at your back, driving you onward as you breeze through unnamed towns. There can be a soulfulness to his singing, but he also ads a deep grit when the song calls for it. He’s damn good at the guitar too, and his band adds a fat groove to the sound. And, boy can he play that cigar box!

Hailing from Baltimore, MD. He’s on his (3rd) release after leaving the outfit, The Bridge, and going solo. On our supporting his latest release, “Color Where You Are,” tour, you should go catch him live if you can. If you can’t, consider getting one of his albums to spin, if you like what you’ve read, you’ll probably like what you hear. 

Headlining the evening, Jackie Greene hit the stage in his signature wide brimmed pork-pie hat, first picking up the silver banjitar to open with, “Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind.” From note one, I could tell this was gonna be a big set. Greene had his new(ish) backing band with him. He’s performed with them before, but only for a handful of shows, of which I didn’t get the chance to catch, unfortunately. But, as above, opportunity knocked again so, here I was ready to get my fix. Tossing in a little nod to Dr. John, (RIP) they move ever so smoothly right into a single verse of, “I Walk on Guilded Splinters,” before finishing off “Devil.”

Challenging the crowd to get to their feet and move, Greene shouts, “Can you feel the spirit?” as the thunder of the drums and bass roll into, “I’m So Gone.” Greene starts the tune with his signature guitar rip and a toss of the chord as he walks to the mic, “I’m not gonna be civil, I’m not gonna watch my tongue, or what I say…” The lyrics to this tune give off some serious attitude, and the guitar jams and thunderous rhythm back it all up. 

This band, this “Modern Lives Band,” as he calls it. Fan-stinkin-tastick. Everything is bigger and, well, harder where it needs to be, softer where it should, and solid, just solid, solid, solid. There was a noticeable difference in both Greene and Nathan Dale, his long-time steady, in the way they both played. It was if they’d just let go, felt so supported it led to a new freedom. It’s hard to explain. JBO has been following Mr. Greene for a long while and can’t help but say, YES. We wholeheartedly feel ya Modern Lives. (On a side note, a friend and I were walking around Monterey killing time before meeting others for some grub and just happened to walk by a gate where a few of the bandmates where hanging out. Of course, we acknowledged the gentlemen, who replied, “Are you coming to the show tonight?” Stop, halt, back up. Why, yes, we are! I can tell you this… after hellos and handshakes… and gentlemanly kisses on the back of the hand, we walked away a little flushed due to the southern charm that was just dripped all over us.) 

Who are they? Gentleman, vocalist and keyboardist, Mr. Shannon Sanders, who is also referred to as the musical director, along with Megan Coleman on percussion, Jon Lucas on drums, Ben Rubin on bass and long-time sideman, Nathan Dale on guitar and backing vocals. Brought in to mix it up, Sanders direction and fellow musicians he’s rounded up for the ride have put a sprinkle of something new on Greene’s music that just, well, took it all to a new level. This statement is not meant to knock any prior membership at all. Much love and respect as always shown by JBO’s reviews. It’s just meant to acknowledge the growth in the music when it is interpreted by different musicians who can tweak it just enough to make your ears tingle.

We did get our quiet, stripped down, soft and soulful Jackie that we love to have. All but he and Nathan exited the stage, Jackie over at the keys while Nathan stood ready at the guitar. “California, is the place to be, but I should warn ya, ‘bout the things I’ve seen….” Gosh, I just got goosebumps thinking about it. When its just those two up there, there is a little bit of magic that happens. The way Nathan feels the music and fills the spaces surrounding Jackie’s voice and keys, it’s like they’re having a musical conversation, finishing each other’s sentences without saying a word. There’s a line in this song that makes me want to scream it out, to open my windows and let the whole neighborhood know what’s on my mind. “Somebody pointed out to me, I want one more chance to believe. I want to run, go stare into the sun. Watch the bay waves breaking, the human race awaken. I, want to know why I am so uncertain, behind the curtain, shakin’, shakin’, shakin’….” It will never get old.

Playing for an hour and a half without break, they really lit up the house energetically, spiritually, musically, and physically with people up dancing in the isles. At one point, the security guard came over to me to ask me if there was a way I could get a message to the band to tell them that people had to sit. I reasoned it out…. it’s gonna be awfully hard to tell the whole place to sit down after the band asked them to get up, and, well, it’s dance music and his fans are gonna dance! Relinquishing to the explosion of joy, they stood back and watched, sometimes gently guiding someone away from the speaker chord or from dancing on someone’s toe, but mostly watching….

After a soulful, “So Many Roads,” or as Jackie put it, “… one for the deadheads…” and a slightly more up-tempo, “I Don’t Live in a Dream,” (I don’t believe in politicians either…..), there was no more rest for the weary, as they hit us with a one, two, three-punch of rockin’ tunes that had the entire place on their feet, dancing and screaming (and stomping pretty loudly) for more. 

And return they did, encoring with, “Ball and Chain,” Greene removed his hat and placed it on the amp. Ut oh, the hat came off, that is your only warning. Then, began that recognizable strum that starts it all out. Exploding with energy, the entire stage was electric. I could feel the mayhem, and it oozed out to the audience and took hold.

Pay heed, y’all. There may only be two shows currently listed, there’s a lot more up this guys sleeve. Thanks to Blue Rose Music and FolkYeah! Presents for bringing this show into town.

Jackie Greene and the Modern Lives Band
Golden State Theatre, Monterey
June 7, 2019

Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind>
I Walk on Guilded Splinters>
Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind
I’m So Gone
Modern Lives
Tupelo
Uphill Mountain
‘Till the Light Comes (No Coda)
Hollywood
Scarlet Begonias
Shaken
Hallelujah
So Many Roads
I Don’t Live in a Dream
Animal>
‘Till the Light Comes

Encore: Ball and Chain

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