One of the founding members of the Doobie Brothers

A funkadelic good time

Wanna hear some funky Dixieland? The Doobie Brothers took nearly 3,000 Central Alberta fans by the hand and showed them a good, old funkadelic time this week.

Wanna hear some funky Dixieland? The Doobie Brothers took nearly 3,000 Central Alberta fans by the hand and showed them a good, old funkadelic time this week.

No splashy video show was played, or needed, at Tuesday night’s concert at the Centrium. The only special effect was the kind of low-tech pinwheel lighting that brought The Monkees TV series to mind.

But when walrus-moustached singer and band co-founder Tom Johnston improvised, “Red Deer moon, won’t you keep on shinin’ on me” during the tune Black Water, the mostly older crowd went absolutely wild.

The song’s swampy, hypnotic vibe was accentuated by accomplished musical solos, including John McFee’s electric fiddle playing. Soon everybody was either singing along with the band, dancing in front of the stage or tapping toes in the stands.

The big finish came when long-haired guitarist Patrick Simmons jumped into the air, then handed out high-fives to fans along the stage, creating a feel-good moment all around.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, after 45 years as a band, that The Doobie Brothers can play like demons and entertain with the best of them. But it was an eye-opener to me, since I never was a big fan of the California group during its heyday when Doobie tunes ruled AM-radio.

How misguided I apparently was — for the band’s stage presence, alone, is something to behold.

The three veteran Brothers (including black-clad McFee) stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their guitars, next to newer members bassist John Cowan and keyboardist Guy Allison. Along with sax player Marc Russo, they formed a lineup that spanned nearly the entire stage.

With extra oomph provided by percussionists Ed Toth and Tony Pia on their expansive drum kits, the cumulative effect was a massive wall of sound rarely heard since the 1970s.

Beyond its jaw-dropping musicianship, there was also the band’s Blues Brothers-like synchronicity.

During Don’t Start Me Talkin’, the guitarists and saxophonist moved as one — jerking their instruments upwards on the high notes, while stepping in time and pulling off synchronized kicks and hops.

The audience rose en masse to give a standing ovation after this tune in the middle of the concert. “And that’s the sound of the blues, people!” said Johnston, clearly stoked by the reaction.

Fans who only knew the Doobie Brothers for their radio hits got an education at Tuesday’s concert. Some of the lesser known songs performed were the optimistic Clear as the Driven Snow, Road Angel, World Gone Crazy ( sung by Cowan), Neal’s Fandango, which featured gorgeous steel guitar playing by McFee, and the beautiful instrumental Slat Key Soquel Rag.

Russo also played a funky sax solo on South City Midnight Lady.

Those who were there for the hits also got an earful. The concert started energetically with Jesus is Just Alright and its do-do-do-do chorus, and continued with Rockin’ Down the Highway and Takin’ It To the Streets.

Long Train Runnin’ with its signature chugga-chugga guitar sound got the crowd clapping, while Take Me In Your Arms featured sweet harmonizing that evoked a simpler time the way light-faded Super-8 film does.

“You want some more?” asked Johnston. China Grove was delivered as an encore, as well as an effusive Listen to the Music. The latter left listeners standing and cheering long after the music died, and band members lined up for a final, drawn-out bow.

It seemed the Doobies were as reluctant as anyone to have the concert draw to a close.

Joining the curtain call was the opening act — Johnston’s grown daughter Lara and her band.

Although Lara Johnston’s 45-minute set seemed over-indulgent for a starter (that’s connections for you), she showcased her throaty, robust voice on songs such as Keep You in My Pocket and The Party’s Over, and proved talent didn’t skip a generation.

Although the pop singer likes to belt it out, she was more powerful on quieter songs, when she modulated her voice to create more interesting moods and soundscapes.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Updated: SUV smashes through fences and deck in Anders

Driver taken to hospital after SUV veered off 30th Avenue into Anders

Art on Red Deer billboard a reminder of aboriginal women’s strength

Joane Cardinal-Schubert’s image is part of Resilience Project, shown from coast to coast

Red Deer’s new ‘equity co-ordinator’ will promote tolerance

Andrea Lacoursiere was hired by city with Alberta Human Rights funding

More bridge work this summer in Red Deer’s Coronation Park

The park’s north bridge is being rebuilt to ensure safety

Man badly injured in off-road vehicle collision on Saturday

Incident happened in Mountain View County about 10:50 p.m.

CFIA inspects after video shows pigs crammed into B.C. transport truck

The video shows pigs piled on top of one another in a transport truck on a “sweltering” hot day last week

Lava crashes through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

HONOLULU — An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean sent… Continue reading

Banff holds blessing ceremony with Indigenous elders before letting bison roam

BANFF, Alta. — Several Indigenous elders were flown by helicopter into the… Continue reading

Research expedition looks at unseen depths of Labrador Sea ecosystem

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Last summer, a team of scientists returned from… Continue reading

Protesters camped outside Saskatchewan legislature taking province to court

REGINA — Protesters camped outside the Saskatchewan legislature say they are taking… Continue reading

British PM accepts key amendments from hardline Brexiteers

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to… Continue reading

‘City of icebergs:’ Study says 100s of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

The statistics in her recently published paper say it all: hundreds of… Continue reading

U.S. hits back with WTO challenge against Canada’s retaliatory tariffs

OTTAWA — The United States fired back Monday at the Canadian government’s… Continue reading

Croatia gears up to give heroes’ welcome to World Cup team

ZAGREB, Croatia — Fans are pouring in from throughout the country as… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month