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

the performance.

 

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

that show.

 

Barry Golin

2000 Morebass Media