I was filled with wild thoughts of Mardi Gras and voodoo magic as I walked into The Palace Theater in Albany, NY this past Thursday. Far from the bayou, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Dr. John made a stop in the capital district on November 1st with his Spirituals to Funk Tour featuring The Blind Boys of Alabama.
Dr. John strolled on stage, wearing a blazing purple suit, took his place center stage in between a piano and an organ, both decorated with jeweled skulls. The band jumped right into the night playing some tunes off their newest album, “Locked Up” which was produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. One of the songs, “Revolution” gave off a whimsical circus vibe from Dr. John’s organ and featured a strong brass solo from the female trombonist. “Big Shot” had an easy flowing groove, with a simple beat and an eerie harmony, making Dr. John’s vocals intimating and hypnotizing. The top hit song “Right Place, Wrong Time” started and the audience cheered in excitement. The people sitting next to me politely excused themselves before immediately jumping out of their seats to start dancing in the aisles. This funky jam made for an excellent electric guitar solo and it’s understandable as to why it was such a chart topper.
After that song, Dr. John was joined by the gospel legends, the Blind Boys of Alabama. The quartet eased on the stage with one member announcing, “Can’t believe I’m here at the Palace with the great Dr. John…and we don’t sing to a conservative crowd.” The audience grew loud and stood to their feet as the Blind Boys began to belt out ”People Get Ready” strong harmonies that I never saw coming. The boys each had a chair and would periodically stand for their solos or sing relaxed in unison in their seats. It was great entertainment to see the Blind Boys feel the music as they each jived to Dr. John and his band’s music. They covered one of my favorite songs, Norman Greenbaum’s, “Spirit in the Sky” with serious swag. The Blind Boys continued to bring a heart-lifting performance especially during “There is a light” with their comforting and strong vocals.
As the Blind Boys made their exit, the crowd was treated to Dr. John laying down some serious notes on his guitar before returning back to the keys for “Mos’ Scocious.”I watched in awe as Dr. John could play the piano to his left or the organ on his right or both at the same time. Each song oozed New Orleans charm with a perfect mix of jazz, the blues and funk. As quickly as they had left, The Blinds Boys were back to help end the show with a bone chilling, slow tempo, “Amazing Grace.”
Much to my disappointment, the show ended before 10pm but it gave everyone a chance to have a meet and greet with the Blind Boys in the main lobby for autographs. The Spiritual to Funk Tour will be making stops in New Jersey and Virginia for the month of November. You can find more information about Dr. John by going to his website here. You can find more information about The Blind Boys of Alabama at their website here.