February 24, 2013

Concert #666 - Lloyd Price and Others at McCabe's Guitar Shop (February 23, 2013)


It must have been divine intervention ... how else can one explain that my concert #666 featured Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Price, considered to be one of the Fathers of the Devil's Music. And who would have thought that someone who had his first hit in 1952 was still a viable performer in 2013?

Santa Monica's McCabe's Guitar Shop is the last place on Earth one would expect to see someone like Lloyd Price, so I had to pinch myself when the show was announced a couple of months ago. Three other artists, Dave Somerville, Gretchen Christopher and Trevor McShane, were also billed to appear with Lloyd. You may not recognize the first two names, but you would certainly know the groups they founded decades ago, the Diamonds and the Fleetwoods, respectively. The third name, Trevor McShane, is the assumed moniker of  Neville Johnson, a Beverly Hills-based lawyer and amateur musician, who I understand played a key role in bringing the performers together. Neville also acted as the MC of the evening and performed a few songs himself.

Last night's show was unlike anything I've ever seen at McCabe's in my nearly twenty-five years of frequenting the venue. At times, last night's concert resembled one of those Doo-Wop concert we often see on Public Television during their pledge drive seasons, as it brought together performers who have long ceased to be in the public eye, yet are still capable of exciting a crowd.

In my case, the excitement came primarily from Lloyd Price. He came out all smiles and launched straight into "The night was clear and the moon was yellow", the opening line from "Stagger Lee". The place went wild. Lloyd's infectious smile never left his face, as he delivered some of the better-known songs of his career, with "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" receiving the best response from the crowd. Sadly, he was bothered by a "tight throat", as he put it, so he had some trouble hitting the higher notes. No one seemed to mind, though, as everyone was having a great time, myself included. We also got to hear a couple of good jokes, my favorite was the one about the zebra being white with black stripes or black with white stripes. As expected, he closed his set with "Personality", a song seemingly made to be a show-ending sing-along and, as the song ended, I took advantage of my front-row seating, reached out my hand and shook his. The thrill I got from watching Lloyd Price in action will be hard to forget.

Lloyd Price at McCabe's
Lloyd Price and Gretchen Christopher
Lloyd Price and Gretchen Christopher
Lloyd Price's set list

Gretchen Christopher's set included all the hits of the Fleetwoods and plenty of spoken word. She delivered her songs either standing at the center of the stage, or accompanying herself on the piano. I have always liked the Fleetwoods, I do own their music, but somehow I feel that their songs are better suited for radio, where their gentle ballads are typically flanked by songs of considerable more energy. The delivery of all those soft numbers, one after the other, could usher in boredom, just ask my friend Steve. Octogenarian Dave Somerville took the stage to sing with Gretchen on a number of songs, among them "Come Softly To Me".

Gretchen Christopher and Dave Somerville singing "Come Softly To Me"
Gretchen Christopher's set list
The show opened with a warm and surprisingly lively set delivered by Dave Somerville, the founder and main voice of the Diamonds, with part-time help from three fourth of the Four Preps. Sporting the posture of a twenty year old and intertwining songs with stories about his younger days, Dave surprised us with a voice that sounded a decade or two younger. Among others, he sang "The Stroll", "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", Oh Boy" and "Silhouettes". Out of nowhere, the Four Preps took the stage and, together with Dave, they sang "26 Miles", their huge hit from the late fifties, as well as "Little Darlin'", the signature song of the Diamonds. They all sounded good.

Dave Somerville at McCabe's
The Four Preps at McCabe's
Exhibiting a lot of self-confidence, Neville Johnson performed a six-song set that included both covers and originals. I liked the originals better. He also sang lead vocals on the evening's grand finale, "Tossin' And Turnin'", the Bobby Lewis oldie, with most protagonists back on the stage. Neville deserves kudos for his part in making the show possible.

Neville Johnson (Trevor McShane)
Neville Johnson (Trevor McShane), Gretchen Christopher & Dave Somerville

All-in-all, it was a fun evening. I knew from the get go that I would not be watching performers with the energy level of Glen Hansard, nor the vocal purity of Shelby Lynne, but still, I just had to be there in order to show my support and offer my thanks to a group of musicians who have given me a lot of pleasure over the years.

Neville Johnson's set list
Bad news for the many attendees with weak bladders
Gretchen Christopher chatting with fans
Dave Somerville at the merch table
The stage
First in line at McCabe's: Bill and Paula

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