August 25, 2011

Concerts #459, 482 - Odetta at McCabe's Guitar Shop (January 27, 2008 - October 3, 2008)

I'll be kicking myself for the rest of my days and for a good reason ... up until January 2008, I have skipped all of Odetta's appearances at McCabe's ... I don't know what made me stay away from her shows for so long. Nor do I know what made me buy two tickets for her January 27 show, which turned out to be an evening like few others.

So there I was, sitting with my better half in the front row, waiting for Odetta to come down the stairs to take the stage, like all performers do at McCabe's. But no one came down. Instead, a bit unexpectedly, a frail-looking and wheelchair-bound Odetta entered the room from the left side of the stage, pushed in by two McCabe's employees, who then lifted the wheelchair up on the stage, with Odetta still in it. All this took about half a minute and I could tell that everyone there was a bit tense. Two maneuvers later, the wheelchair was positioned right next to a music stand, a blanket was placed over Odetta's lap and - all of a sudden - we were in her living room, her frailty gone and a beautiful smile replacing the initial apprehension on her face. We were in business!

Odetta at McCabe's (January 27, 2008) (photo by Sherry Rayn Barnett) (Please visit her web site at, where you will find countless great photos)
Odetta's concert was beyond any expectation - with a surprisingly strong voice and lots of charisma, the whole evening was nothing short of mesmerizing. She did talk about how much Obama's candidacy meant to her, before launching into an unforgettable rendition of "Bourgeois Blues". "The House Of The Rising Sun" and "Midnight Special" were just as great. Leadbelly got mentioned a few times. Odetta sang for about an hour and the whole affair was heart-warming, humorous and dead serious, all at the same time. Her body may not have been in the best of shape, but there was nothing wrong with her voice, nor her mind. At 77, Odetta's was still radiating power, warmth and credibility and I will never forget her smile.

Croatian-born Radoslav Lorkovic accompanied Odetta on keyboards for the entire duration of the show.
Radoslav Lorkovic and Odetta in 2006
On October 3, 2008, Odetta graced McCabe's' stage for one last time, and I was there to witness the event, along with my good friend Mircea. One could tell that Odetta's overall condition had deteriorated. Her magnetism was still there and so was her million-dollar smile, but her voice was a bit shakier and her hands appeared to be lifeless at times ... still, no one could have foreseen that, exactly two months later, Odetta would be no more ... shame on me for having skipped her many LA area appearances over the years and what on honor to have caught her last three appearances there.

David Keyes accompanied Odetta on, you guessed it, keyboards.

Yours Truly, third in line (October 3, 2008)
The McCabe's crowd, moments before the show (October 3, 2008)
David Keyes' piano (October 3, 2008)

No comments:

Post a Comment