I was excited to hear the news that Lil' Band O' Gold is returning to New Zealand. I saw the band 18 months ago, just after they had released The Promised Land and were touring in support of both that and a superb documentary film, The Promised Land: A Swamp Pop Journey (click on that link to see the trailer). I've watched that film a few times now and I'll be returning to it before the show. It's heart-warming. And it gives a context for so much of the music - for the players in the band too.
Lil' Band O' Gold's music fills me with joy. Spoonbread and I Don't Wanna Know, to name just two songs (the opening two in fact) from The Promised Land - that'll get you started. Maybe it's not for you, but the gig was astonishing. Here are the final lines from my review of the 2010 show:
It was a magical evening of song - and it seemed that it might never end. The Lil' Band O' Gold played for close to three hours, offering a history lesson, value for money and one of the finest live sets I have ever seen.
Now it's an easy cliché to proclaim something the greatest you've ever seen but when you put it in print you have to stand by it. You might just be making sure there's not a space in the paper the next day but people will remind you of what you said. You get it right, you get it wrong - you have to live by what you said. For better and worse. And people have done so with this review - including some people who probably still have no idea what Lil' Band O' Gold sounds like. But they read that I was raving about it and wanted to make sure that I (actually) meant it.
My advice to anyone in New Zealand who loves music and is anywhere near the locations where the band is touring (see the link in the first line) is that Lil' Band O' Gold is a must-see live act. One of the finest gigs you could ever hope to get to. You really must do yourself the favour.
This "supergroup" of legends (dig Warren Storm, still playing drums and singing and rocking a mo at 75) play music that they love. It's so clear that they love it, it's infectious. And their choices. Songs by Bobby Charles, oh my now there's a songwriter that'll break your heart every time.
Last time the band played Wellington they were busting out Lazy Lester's Sugar Coated Love third song in. I think my jaw hit the floor. You listen to music all your life, discover things like Lazy Lester's great Sugar Coated Love when you're sure no one else is across it and you don't ever expect that in this day and age you'll hear anything approximating the original - not by a live band. Well not only did the group nail it, there was a special reason to perform that particular song: Warren Storm was the drummer on the original recording.
I was fortunate to interview C.C. Adcock before the band played here in 2010. Click here to read my interview if you missed it last time - or for a refresher. (It covers the band's history, has a few extra links to songs and performances and there are some wonderful anecdotes about Fats Domino, Warren Storm and Robert Plant. I might say this a lot too but it was one of my favourite interviews, Adcock was certainly one of my favourite interviewees.)
Ever since that gig I've thought about how wonderful it will be for the band to return here - but I figured that an eight-piece with some members in their 70s would be unlikely to make it back here.
The Promised Land is still high on my most-played albums list. It was my favourite album of 2010 and it was probably my favourite album of 2011 too. I still play it just about every week.
The mix of country, blues and soul music - the swamp-pop or "white people playing black music" as Adcock told me when I spoke with him - was one thing, so seamless, but given that this supergroup comprises talented players who all have other musical projects it is bigger than just seeing and hearing one band. Steve Riley offered tunes from his Mamou Playboys set - meaning the music also embraced zydeco and Cajun styles as well as country, blues, soul and doo-wop.
The gig finished last time - nearly three hours but it flew by, so many great songs and moments within songs - and I was up to the front of the stage desperate to snatch a set-list, a take-home memento; I needed a connection to this concert beyond the memories that I will always have. I had to have something tangible. I'm no longer a collector of set-lists - that phase ended a long time ago - but the Lil' Band set-list sits above my computer, pinned to the wall where I can see it.
Every night I tap away at the keyboard. I've finished work for the day but it's time to create a post for Blog on the Tracks. I may have been to a gig so it's particularly late, or I may have time to dash out the blog-post before I go to a gig. In the weekends I write too. That's my choice. But it's also something I have to do. I'm compelled to. Sometimes I'm commissioned so the choice of it is less of an option. But you have to keep trying. You have to punch the clock. Sometimes you really do want to punch it.
We moved into our new place the night before the 2010 Lil' Band O' Gold show. So the set-list has been on the wall in the office the whole time we've lived here. I stare at it every night - in the pauses, when I use double dashes - in moments when I'm thinking of something to say. (Like now.)
I see one word title-abbreviations or truncated phrases. I see the keys listed for the songs. And I relive a different part of that magical night several times a night. I can honestly say - as I am doing right now - that I've never been to a gig that I've thought about more than Lil' Band O' Gold's.
These guys are heroes. The job they are doing, the joy they are bringing. I'll be seeing them one more time. And that thought - already - pleases me very much. They are one of the greatest live bands you could ever hope to see. And again we have the chance.
Will you be going? Have you heard Lil' Band O' Gold? Will you give them a shot? See the movie. Buy The Promised Land. Get a ticket for the show. Prepare to experience one of the best concerts you could ever hope to see.
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