Stone rolls over Senator
Rolling Stones’ former lead guitarist ignites local theater
Playing to little more than a hundred people (at best), former Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor still turned in an incendiary set of fusion-flavored and raw blues songs and instrumentals last Monday night. Looking slightly paunchy, developing a double chin, Taylor nevertheless laid down some great guitar work, his slide solos ringing as sharp and as sweetly as ever. A seasoned trio of musicians, including British keyboard legend Max Middleton, backed the guitarist.
Here, I have to admit, I have absolutely no idea about the titles of any of the first half-dozen or so tunes Taylor and company played. Until near the end of the performance, I didn’t recognize a one. His set kicked off with keyboardist Middleton (who has played with such diverse British rock artists as Jeff Beck and Kate Bush) establishing some sustained piano chords, over which Taylor began laying sensuous slide guitar lines. The bass and drums jumped in, and suddenly Taylor was singing. Yep. Singing! Who knew Mick could sing? He certainly didn’t get many opportunities within the Stones, did he?
And a fine voice Taylor possesses, too. A strong baritone with a slightly Dylanesque enunciation. Unfortunately, the crummy sound system largely obfuscated the lyrics. Or maybe it was simply a matter of whoever was attempting to operate the system.
Anyway, Taylor led his band through shifting musical styles: Latin-based, Santana-like noodlings, wide-open jazzy meanderings and improvisations, hard-knuckled blues. Taylor’s slide prowess has diminished not one bit. He still controls his feedback well enough to make those high slide notes sing like a soprano when he wants. He is still great.
Taylor finished off the evening by dipping into his old blues bag of tricks, getting the crowd jumping with a rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell and the Rev. Gary Davis’s “You Got To Move” (covered by the Stones, with Taylor on slide, on 1971’s Sticky Fingers LP) and absolutely knocked everybody out when, halfway through his unfamiliar encore piece, he shifted gears abruptly into the long jazzy coda from “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” He played each fierce note flawlessly.
Opening the evening was Chico band The Asskickers. The men were in fine form, playing with panache, seemingly relishing the honor of so choice an opening spot. Guitarist Scott Pressman got off several hot solos, while Steve Bragg kept things rattling and shaking with his strong drum playing. Al Wood held everything together with his succinct bass lines, and John LaPado underpinned and accented everything on pedal steel guitar, as he so often does. Front man Bob Howard sang well and kept the songs banging along, one after the next, with a minimum of banter in between. It was a good set by the local favorites.