Review: After 40 years, Little Feat still knows how to rock
ALBANY Little Feat is still walking tall and showed no signs of a limp Friday night at the Egg’s sold-out Hart Theater.
Four of the six men on stage started playing in the group some 40 years ago, and if nothing else, they know how to make it look easy, playing with the efficiency of veteran athletes.
Their songs generally move slowly and steadily — if not bumpy — like a pickup truck over a dirt road, as they often did Friday.
They opened with Paul Barrerre singing “Rocket in my Pocket.” Barrerre was one of four lead singers Friday, but his voice holds the signature sound for the band, and it sounded as cool as ever. Feat fans must love hearing him sing.
Fred Tackett sang next and gave us a screeching solo on his guitar. It wasn’t until the fourth song, “Spanish Moon,” sung by growling percussionist Sam Clayton, that the band got together properly. Little Feat is best when no one steps out in front for a big solo, but instead bump down the road together, weaving in and out of one another.
During these times, it seems like nothing is happening, but really, everything is happening. This occurs most often when Bill Payne solos on the piano or organ — he prefers to bring the group together rather than show off his chops, though he can do that, too.
Payne’s first singing of the night was on “Blues Keep Coming,” with his understated line, “I can’t stop them anymore.” He rarely pushes but knows how to raise and lower the song with the subtlest of adjustments.
“Fat Man” lifted the tone of the night, moving to a calypso bounce that got a few folks jiggling in their seats. They stretched it out here for the first time, Payne, Tackett and Barrerre each hitting their solos, sometimes too much, but eventually coming together to rise on Barrerre’s slide guitar, then cut out for a brief, thumb-slapping solo by bassist Kenny Gradney and drummer Gabe Ford.
They softened with “Church Falling Down,” with Tackett singing and picking on the mandolin and Barrerre on acoustic guitar. This was a nice break, and they continued into the soulful classic “Willin’,” which turned into a sing-along during the chorus.
After asking the audience if marijuana was decriminalized in New York and receiving mixed answers from the audience, he sang “”Don’t Bogart that Joint,” which he cited as a 45-year-old song. “Boy, we’ve come a long way since then.”
“This one’s for Levon,” he said, referring to Levon Helm as they moved into a fairly quick and wonderful “The Weight,” a Band song that could easily be a Little Feat tune.
Still on acoustic, they played the title track from their latest record, “Rooster Rag,” a bluegrass thing with vocal harmonies and country themes. And of course, they powered up the honky-tonk for “Dixie Chicken.”
Opener Connor Kennedy comes as a direct descendant from the swampy side of Little Feat. Kennedy, a Woodstock resident, played 45 minutes of slow-moving, deliberate blues-rock, leaning on the back end of each beat, keeping the song on its heels. He’s a good songwriter and a good singer, but the songs are still uncooked, and his trio couldn’t keep up with his ideas on the guitar solos.
Still, they worked hard, played well and were privileged to have Payne join them on keyboards.