Dr John Live at the Dominion Theatre, London 12 March 2000
Laissez le bon temps roulet, it's Malcolm 'Mac' Rebennack, aka Dr John the
Night Tripper. He still plays honky tonk piano like he's in the parlor of a
N'Awlins cat house, and the gravel in his voice is as deep and throaty as
it's ever been.
At 59 this year, the man has reinvented himself more times than Madonna,
having survived his funk, glitter and voodoo stages to become one of the
elder statesmen of rock and honky tonk flavored jazz. His home grown New
Orleans R&B trio opened the evening with a patented groove to allow the good
doctor to strut to the grand piano at centre stage. The audience was
peculiar in that the twenty-somethings looked a bit out of place. It was
the biggest collection of 40-60 year olds with long white hair (bald-on-top
not withstanding) on this wee island since Members of Parliament wore wigs.
I felt positively youthful as a salt & pepper fortysomething...
It has to be said that the Dominion Theatre at Tottenham Court Road and it's
West End musical sound system did not do justice to the performance - the
bass and midrange sounds were muddy and the highs were a bit tinny. Dr John
cut through most of this when he sang and played piano. A few Ellington
songs were given the Rebennack treatment from his new album, "Duke Elegant".
The doctor switched from the grand to the organ for these tunes - mostly
instrumental versions - to mixed results. Without the percussive piano and
the twangy voice, sadly, the sound system failed to deliver the quality of
About a half hour into the set, Dr John brought out former Squeeze member
and local London hero, Jools Holland, to sit in the rest of the evening on
Hammond B-3 organ. Jools played the sideman with great grace, mostly adding
a dash of color or a spot of punctuation save for 2 solo spots where he got
to show off his chops, which are quite spectacular.
In spite of the wildman Night Tripper moniker, Dr John shined brightest when
he played the standards, like Gus Kahn's "Makin' Whoopie" (which he recorded
as a duet for the "Sleepless In Seattle" soundtrack with Rickie Lee Jones),
and the encore "So Long". "Such A Night" was another blast from the past
highlight. He got the crowd on its feet a few times, but "Right Place,
Wrong Time" remains the silver bullet in his arsenal. The house rocked.
Someday, my dream ticket would be to see Dr John playing standards in a
nightclub with a big band (Jools Holland has a 12 piece that would do quite
nicely!) and a good sound system. Maybe I'll have to go to New Orleans for
©2000 Morebass Media