Eric Burdon and his latest line up of The Animals played to a packed house at McPhillips Street Station last night (2/2/12), performing in Winnipeg for the first time since Jan/09.
The veteran Newcastle born wailer, who fronted arguably one of the best bands to come out of the 60s British Invasion era, changed his show considerably from the last visit.
Burdon’s backing band was completely different with the notable exception of mainstay veteran keyboard player Red Young.
The bulk of the new line up hails from Young’s home state of Texas, and features the formidable talents of Brannen Temple on drums, Terry Wilson on bass and Billy Watts from Los Angeles, CA on lead guitar.
The unit was tight both instrumentally and vocally, and Burdon gave them plenty of spotlight time, perhaps to a fault since most fans came to see the frontman strut his stuff.
The night began with the band jamming on the opening fanfare of what proved to be The Animals sitar-influenced 1967 hit “When I Was Young, “ replete with amplifier feedback, sitar like guitar riffs, and pulsating groove that were the hallmark of the song, propelling Burdon’s menacing vocals.
The diminutive singer with the big voice took the stage to waves of applause, sporting shades, a black short sleeve shirt overtop a black t-shirt and slacks.
Although his hair is grey these days, the 70-year old Burdon makes few concessions to age, asides from taking a stool for the occasional number, and still clearly enjoys himself onstage.
His voice is a little huskier, but the gravel suits the primarily blues based material, and Burdon’s power and range still pack plenty of wallop.
Next up, was the the 1966 Goffin-King penned Animal’s hit “Don’t Bring Me Down” followed by a retinkered reggae version of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and Burdon’s ode to 60s flower power “San Francisco Nights.”
The set list order and content were shaken up somewhat from his last visit, with a number of Burdon’s original pop hits such “Spill the Wine” and “Sky Pilot” being eschewed this time around, and replaced by covers of blues standards such as Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” and Ray Charles’ “I Believe to My Soul.”
Though steeped primarily in the blues, Burdon’s songs have drawn from many genres over the years including R&B, soul, pop, jazz, rock n’ roll, and 60s psychedelia.
But not unlike Winnipeg’s own hometown hero, the legendary shapeshifting chamelon, Neil Young, you never know for sure what he might do until he shows up. On this night, it was primarily Burdon the taciturn improvising blueman who took the stage.
Highlights of the 1 ½ hour set included the band’s workout on John Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom” and “Crawling King Snake,” which morphed into Burdon’s signature number – “House of the Rising Sun,” the crowd roaring its approval as Watts strummed through the instantly recognizable Am Cmaj Dmaj Emaj guitar chord progression, that marked The Animals biggest hit.
The band exited while Brannen took a long drum solo, eventually reappearing and falling into a loose jam, which segued into the opening trademark bass riff of The Animal’s 1965 smash “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” signalling the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s return.
Burdon snarled and growled his way through the song, often flip-flopping the melodic octaves of the vocal lines, and scats-singing others, building the song dynamically to it’s frenzied chorus “Work Work Work Work – We Gotta Get Out of This Place” as the audience attempted to sing along with the 60s icon, whose powerful vocals easily drowned them out.
Some fans might question the changes to the set list, arrangements, the band line up and Burdon’s penchant for improvising on treasured melodies, lyrics and arrangements a la Dylan. But to coin a phrase from one of The Animals most beloved songs titled “It’s My Life,” Burdon would likely reply, “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.”
He’s paid his dues and earned the right.
For more information, check out Eric Burdon’s official website.
Did you know? The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.