Jackie Greene Band, Club Helsinki, October 27th

photos by Thomas Sinkora

I first became “acquainted” with Jackie Greene, when a video of Jackie performing “Brokedown Palace” with Phil Lesh at Phil’s Marin County home surfaced back in September 2007. The rehearsals were in preparation for the fall 2007 Phil and Friends tour. I happened to catch the 10/20/2007 show of that tour at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Most of the hype centered around the appearance of Phish’s Trey Anastasio who was residing in the area at the time but “the new kid” in skinny jeans as I referred to him in a blog post impressed me with his gritty bluesy voice. Not an easy task when you are on stage with Larry Campbell, Phil Lesh and Trey Anastasio!

I’ve been a fan since, and have caught his sets at Gathering of the Vibes, his performances with Ratdog and Bob Weir, and followed the You Tube videos he shoots of himself performing new tunes. I missed out on his Ramble appearances down at the late great Levon Helm’s Barn and his prior visits to Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY. I tentatively had the 11/2/12 show at Bearsville Theater pencilled in on my calender prior to the announcement he would be joining Phil and Friends (again) on tour shortly thereafter. I was shut out of tickets for the Phil & Friends dates at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY when those dates sold out quickly while I was stuck working. It was serendipity that Jackie announced an added date at Club Helsinki in Hudson, NY where I grew up and where family still lives. A 45 minute drive to Hudson sure beats the 1hr 45m drive to Bearsville as much as I enjoy hanging out in Woodstock.

I had never been to Club Helsinki before, which I can best describe as a seated club (or at least it was for this night). It had a supper club/cabaret type feel. In fact people were dining throughout most of opening act Jabe Beyer’s set and through Jackie’s. The tables were all full when my friends and I arrived but we were told we could sit on the couch which was side stage and right next to Jackie’s tech.

For a singer/songwriter type like Jackie, the venue was perfect and the acoustics were outstanding. The 17 song set showcased Jackie’s versatility as he segued seamlessly from folk to pure country to rock and blues and back showing why the New York Times labeled him the “Prince of Americana”. Jackie opened with I Don’t Live in a Dream from 2008’s Giving up the Ghost. He then put on the harmonica for a Dylanesque Gone Wanderin’ prefaced by stating “a little joy before the storm hits” referring to the looming Hurricane Sandy. Honey I Been Thinking about you had folky Arlo Guthrie like humor. A Side of the Road and Honey also showcased folk influences. There was a a nod to the outstanding sound because “I can hear myself” with pure country ballad When Did you Stop Loving Me?

A cover of the Grateful Dead’s Deal featured an outstanding keyboard solo by Steve Taylor on a very clean and crisp sounding Yamaha. I was continuously torn between putting down my camcorder to just listen especially on the lush harmonies of A Moment of Temporary Color where Steve Taylor showed restraint and a light ethereal touch on those ivories.

Jackie took an audience request on 1961 playfully stating “WTF are the words!! I always get myself into these situations” It was then his turn to take to the piano and he swapped places with Steve Taylor for Shaken, So Hard To Find My Way and the gritty, soulful and very old-school blues of Tell Me Mama, Tell me Right were he asked the soundman to take everyone else out of the mix.

Jackie then returned to the guitar for a duet with Steve on Elton John classic Bennie & The Jets. The playful back and forth of Bennie Bennie Bennie…. Bennie & the Jets had both singers at the tops of their range in falsetto. A switch to acoustic guitar for One Bad Love and one of my favorite tunes of the evening Uphill Mountain signaled the night was winding down all too quickly. Band introductions followed and it was back to the electric for set closer and the second Grateful Dead cover of the night: Sugaree. After the band left the stage briefly, they came back out with Jabe Beyer. With a nod to Levon Helm and The Band, Jackie and Jabe encored with The Weight.

Setlist: Tuning, I Don’t Live In A Dream, Gone Wanderin’, By the Side of the Road, Dressed to Kill,
Honey I Been Thinking About You,
When Did You Stop Loving Me?, Deal, A Moment of Temporary Color, Till the Light Comes, 1961, Shaken, So Hard To Find My Way, Tell Me Mama, Tell Me Right, Bennie and the Jets, One Bad Love
Uphill Mountain, Sugaree

Encore: The Weight*

*with Jabe Beyer (Jackie’s Opener)

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