Review by Caroline Schwarz and Photos by David P. Tracer
The final two nights of John Kadlecik Band’s Western U.S. tour landed them a mile high with shows in Denver and Boulder. Both nights featured a fine collection of John K originals along with songs by the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and other artists, including healthy doses of songs by The Beatles and Beatles band members.
Friday, April 29 at The Oriental Theater in Denver kicked off with the John Lennon tune, “Nobody Told Me,” a fun number that suits the feel of this band and on which John does a great, expressive job singing. It was to be a Beatles kind of a night, with another Lennon tune, “Watching the Wheels,” featured late in the show, as well as The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” and the George Harrison song “Any Road.” The latter was a true highlight, leading seamlessly after the second verse into a scathing “Fire on the Mountain,” and then back into “Any Road” for the final two verses. The transitions throughout were as tight as can be and the whole audience seemed to feel the groove deep in their dancing bones as we happily devoured this ‘sandwich.’ The heights scaled by these last two songs carried effortlessly over into a raging version of the Grateful Dead’s” The Other One”; on this song, bassist Klyph Black not only did total justice to the opening run of iconic bass bombs made famous by Phil Lesh, but also did a fine job on the vocals (he also sang tonight on the Merle Haggard cover, “Mama Tried”).
While I do love how this band covers the songs of other great songwriters, including also tonight a rocking run through Peter Rowan’s “Tin Roof Shack” and Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come,” John’s own songs always sparkle. Tonight we got to hear “Golden Wings” in set one, and a one-two punch of the sweet “Sister Smiles” followed by a fun and funky “The Business” early in the second set.
I always enjoy discerning themes that, intentionally or merely cosmically, take shape during a show, and at this point in the evening I’d become aware of a certain “roundness” to the proceedings. Starting with the ‘look around, around, around’ in “Dear Prudence”; through the lack of beginnings and ends, not to mention edges and sides, in “Any Road”; continuing through ‘comin’, comin’, comin’ around’ in an epic “The Other One”; and finally in the next to last song which has us ‘just sittin here watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll…’ I’m happy when we’re done that we’ll get to roll on to another night of John Kadlecik Band tomorrow!
Saturday, April 30 at Boulder’s Fox Theatre sees a packed house show up, including many who after Friday’s musical extravaganza are back for more. I should give a shout out to the opening band tonight as well as last night’s, which were both excellent. Coral Creek at the Denver show had an Americana sensibility and very fine musicianship, while at the same time keeping a raw, gritty sound that to me was a bit reminiscent of Little Feat on some of their songs. They did one of the coolest covers of the Neil Young song, “Comes a Time,” changing up the tempo and giving it a bit of a bluegrass feel. Tonight’s Hot Soup was a jazzy funky foursome, including saxophone/keys, guitar, bass and drums, playing original songs with often humorous lyrics, sometimes a bit darkly so. And they are all completely outstanding players. They did a great rendition of Elton John / Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man” (as a sort of medley with their own song, “Mountain Man”), changing the lyrics in a way that was emblematic of their overall humor and gave many in the audience a good chuckle: “I miss the earth so much, I DON’T miss my wife, it’s AWESOME out in space.” It was great both nights to enjoy opening acts that I wouldn’t have minded seeing for a full show.
But on to what we’re all ready and waiting for, another ride through a musical experience that someone will describe to me during set break as ‘healing.’ They don’t mess around tonight and launch right into a fiery “Shakedown Street,” followed by one of my favorite John K originals, “Seen Love.” Next up is “The Promised Land,” strongly sung by keyboardist Waynard Scheller. The middle part of the set contains a trio of songs that are sweet and contemplative, with “Mission in the Rain,” “Box of Rain,” and the George Harrison tune “The Light That Has Lighted The World.” This last song is less familiar but one of the most moving and beautiful songs of the night, with truly heartfelt playing and singing from John that infuses the melody and words with what feels like a very personal emotion. After the song’s conclusion he lets us know that it’s one of his favorite George Harrison songs, and one that has special relevance for him right now.
I’m thrilled about the next song, my favorite of all the Van Morrison songs that John covers, “Alan Watts Blues.” An ode to the writer and philosopher and his time spent in nature and contemplation on California’s Mt. Tamalpais (documented in his book, Cloud-Hidden Whereabouts Unknown), it feels like one of those healing songs, full of joy both musically and lyrically. This one slides effortlessly into “Ripple” as only John plays it (and someone says to me is the best version ever). Some of my favorite Dead covers this band plays are in fact a number of slower tempo ones that they step up in groove, like this one, “Dark Star” a bit later tonight, and “Sugaree” last night, giving them a fresh treatment and a danceable beat.
The groove goes on with an upbeat second set opener of “Brown Eyed Women” followed by a rarity, “Upon the Lowland Sea.” This latter tune is a folk song popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary and included on the album American Spring by The Mix, a band that featured John, Melvin Seals, Greg Anton and Kevin Rosen. It’s a tale of daring and death on the sea that, like many folk songs, doesn’t end all that well for the protagonist – all wrapped up in a deceptively jaunty tune.
It’s hard to pick highlights from the rest of the set as they were more or less nonstop. “Crazy Fingers” slides effortlessly into the great Bob Dylan cover, “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” played with a bluesy swing and groove. Then we get tonight’s thematic grouping of songs, starting with The Police song “Walking in Your Footsteps,” a cautionary tale about going the way of the dinosaurs (“Fifty million years ago you walked upon the planet so, Lord of all that you could see, just a little bit like me”). It’s impossible not to dance to, the way these guys do it, even if we are on a path to extinction. That goes into a funked-up “Dark Star,” and then another song from John’s band, The Mix, “American Spring,” followed by “Throwing Stones.” These last two are songs of social commentary on the human race, our tendency not to live up to our better natures, and the peril that potentially awaits if we don’t.
It is healing and hope that have the last word tonight, though, as they wrap things up with “Not Fade Away” and an oh-so-sweet “My Sisters and Brothers” encore. Some nice parting words of appreciation from John for coming out and making them feel so welcome on their Colorado run end the show. We sure appreciate him and this band, and the energy they’ve shared with us these two nights should certainly make it a little easier to ‘keep the faith’ until next time.
John Kadlecik Band @ The Oriental Theatre Denver, CO 4.29.16
Set One: Nobody Told Me Golden Wings, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Mama Tried, Tin Roof Shack, Catfish John, Bird Song, The Harder They Come
Set Two: Sugaree, Sister Smiles, The Business, Dear Prudence, Any Road> Fire on the Mountain> Any Road, The Other One, Watching the Wheels, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
E: Tangled Up in Blue
John Kadlecik Band @ The Fox Theatre Boulder, CO 4.30.16
Set One: Shakedown Street, Seen Love, The Promised Land, Mission in the Rain
Box of Rain, The Light That Has Lighted the World, Alan Watts Blues, Ripple
Set Two: Brown Eyed Women, Upon the Lowland Sea, Crazy Fingers, It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry, Reuben and Cerise, Walking in Your Footsteps, Dark Star, American Spring, Throwing Stones, Not Fade Away
E: My Sisters and Brothers
Don’t miss the John Kadlecik Band out East on the next leg of their tour:
Fri – May 6 – 2016
Mexicali Live, 1409 Queen Anne Rd – Teaneck, NJ
Sat – May 7 – 2016
Ram’s Head Live, 20 Market Pl – Baltimore, MD
Sat – May 14 – 2016
Blossoms Blooming Festival, Quail Ridge Lake – Aldie, VA
Sun – May 15 – 2016
Broadberry , 2729 W Broad St – Richmond, VA
Thu – May 19 – 2016
Woodlands Tavern, 1200 W 3rd Ave – Columbus, OH
Fri – May 20 – 2016
Benefit for Flint, 1111 Beaufait – Detroit, MI
Sat – May 21 – 2016
Hookahville at NLQP, Nelson’s Ledges Quarry Park, OH
Sun – May 22 – 2016
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St – Newport, KY
Thu – May 26 – 2016
Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave – Allston, MA
Fri – May 27 – 2016
StrangeCreek Campout, Camp Kee Wanee – Greenfield, MA
Sat – May 28 – 2016
Sterling Stage Folk Fest. 274 Kent Rd – Sterling, NY
Sun – May 29 – 2016
River St Jazz Café, 667 N River St – Plains, PA