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“AH Presents Sexy Spring Is In The Air” At Sidewalk Cafe, Saturday, May 16th, 2015 Reviewed

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Sidewalk Cafe have discovered a new way to keep their clients on their toes, they freeze them till they have to jump up and down on them. At their back of the room concert stage on Saturday night there was no place to hide from the brutal call of a blizzard condition air condition. It made you want to leave and never come back, or it would only renaissance music woman, singer, songwriter, bandleader, and lest we forget, concert promoter Anne Husick, had put together such a stellar lineup of musicians, leaving early was not an option.

Up first, at 7pm, was Dennis Doyle, an old style rocker with shades he didn’t take off all night, and a calm cool on song after song with a fine backing band. I don’t know Dennis’ material but there was nothing he played I didn’t like, and when a blonde singer joined him it was twice as fun. The mix guy kept on telling  Dennis to play another song while they waited the arrival of Cheri Dahl. Finally, Anne took over for a couple of songs before getting mad at her guitar and beckoning Cheri on stage.

rock nyc readers  may remember Cheri from when she played the rock nyc pop up show a coupla years ago, she was great then, here, with the inclusion of a back up stand up bass player, Cheri’s voice was the equal, though her equanimity less so. Opening with “RNR Baby Jane” and closing with “High Heels” we got her two best songs, but in between there was a searing, soaring glorious ache to her songs of stealth mode self confidence and self defense heartbreak. A troubling yet brilliant performance.

Cheri’s close friends, the Susan Said Band, were up next and the last time I saw them, Susan had an 102 degree fever, and though at the time I didn’t see how I missed anything, watching her in good health was amazing. Opening with the title track off her new album, the astounding “Big Life”,she took her band on a robust forty five minutes of flat out rock and roll rebellion. The audience ate it up and my buddies were in awe. One, a smoker, refused to get up and go outside while they were on stage. The set hit its high spot with the pervy “Mr. Touchy Feely” and the overdrive “Car”.

I’ve been trying to catch Phil Gammage, responsible for Adventures In Bluesland, both band and album, as well as this years superb album, his second great one in a row, The American Dream. With a full, very good band, Phil has one of the best blues sounds around, and at his best on the hotter songs, a swinging for the fences “Booze, Blues And New Tattoos” he unleashes it, and that wonderful voice, to great effect. He is like a less Mex Mavericks.

But  the set wasn’t perfect, Phil didn’t play his harp for some reason and the band could use a lead guitarist. As is, the band is great, all of Phil’s songs are great, he can cover Elvis Presley and John Lee Hooker with equal ease, but he doesn’t take guitar solos very often and the one he did seemed a little muddled. Most of the heavy lifting Phil handed  to the admittedly excellent Robert Aaron on sax. Another guitarist would fill it out. Also, the band is awful loud, great for some songs, but a quieter take on one of Gammage’s best songs, “Watching The Traffic Flow” would have worked better and the harp solo on the recorded version was missed live. .Having said that, by the end of the night Gammage had the entire band doing a full tilt jam and the place was jumping. Don Fiorino on steel guitar is a world class player and bassist Johnny Cement plus sound architect drummer Kevin Tooley kept the momentum always, straight forward, and swinging and hitting. It seems like a decision was made to rearrange the sound so it was more of a rock and roll fervor than a blues jazz discipline.The price we paid for some gorgeous workouts was a lessening of nuance.

Meanwhile, around 1030pm, they turned off the air conditioner and I made a mental note to catch all four acts again if they can just play in warmer climates. Thanks to Anne for a memorable evening!

Grade: B+

 

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