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Columns > Itzys Illusions - Steve Itzkowitz

Published: 2004/01/30
by Steve Itzkowitz

In with Old, Out with the New

Hi there and welcome to the reason why the internet is going ghetto. I hope you all had a nice holiday season. I know I certainly did and as they say it’s better to give than to receive. So with that I give you not only the monthly recap, but also the Year in Review. But wait, that’s not all, if you act now you’ll also get a new random Top 5 List plus some really bad jokes. All for just $19.99. Can you believe it? It’s not a dream, it’s true and here we go . . . *The Dead The Oakland Arena, Tuesday December 30, 2003* How about this? My mom calls me with the news that our family vacation to South Florida has been postponed until the spring due to some unfortunate family illness. So now all of a sudden I'm free for NYE. Well, can you say ol' school road trip? The toughest part about seeing a show after a 5 hour drive is to make it through the show, which we barely did. Sgt. Avery and I arrived in the parking lot after dropping our stuff of at our hotel in Emeryville and headed into the Coliseum. The Dead were already on stage finishing up "Shakedown Street" as we headed down to the floor. They had shut down the entire balcony due to lack of ticket sales, but the real hard core fans were there on the floor and in the lower tiers. During the first set, I ended up on Phil's side up in the 100's to the left of the stage as Avery ended up in 109 in the top row directly across from the stage. The first set was pretty solid. The highlights being a huge "Loose Lucy" before a rockin' set closer of "Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain." Yes, Mickey sang "Fire", but the Dead played it and nailed it. Gregg Osby sat in on tenor saxophone for most of the show as well. During the intermission after rejoining Avery, we were now situated in 109 in the top row across from the stage. The sound was great, but the Arena has these camera stations suspended from the ceiling that are like these huge metal baskets. Well, the sound started to reverb off of them. Kind of annoying, you know. The "Unbroken Chain" set opener was a good choice, but then Bobby busted out the Ratdog trilogy (Even So, October's Queen, Lucky Enough) much to the chagrin of 90% of the home crowd. I could think of about 100 other tunes he could have played instead. I've said it before and I'll say it again, leave the Ratdog songs to Ratdog and keep the Dead playing the Dead. Anyway, Mr. Weir quickly made up for it by delivering a tremendous Estimated Prophet complete with trademark, "Ha's." Good classic, Rock Star Bobby. The rest of the show was solid. The "Touch of Grey" encore was right after Phil's Donor Rap and the only ones on stage were Phil and Rob, so Phil started playing the opening notes to "Touch" without the band, but they soon joined in and everything fell into place. If these are indeed the last shows with Rob and Joan as the rumors have stated, then they went out just like they came in with a bang. Top 5 Cover Songs 2003 1. "For Your Love"--Joe Jackson Band The El Rey Theatre, March 21, 2003 (Yardbirds Classic) Sandwiched between the classic "Fools in Love" of the great LP Look Sharp
2. "25 Minutes to Go"—Pearl Jam Shoreline Amph. Mt View, CA Sat. Oct. 24 2003 Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit (Johnny Cash) Eddie Vedder nailed this acoustic version in homage to the man in black. 3. "Higher Ground"--Galactic House of Blues, Los Angeles Fri, Oct 17 2003 (Stevie Wonder) Houseman and Sister Teedy went off on this version. Eric Clapton’s cover is good, but this one was dirty good.
4. "Root Down"—Trey Anastasio Band The Warfield Theatre, SF Sat May 31, 2003 (Jimmy Smith) This was the encore of one of the best shows of the season. Complete with a disco ball in the middle of the Warfield. It was awesome. At one point I looked around the balcony and all I could see were flying arms and legs. Just a scene. 5. "Me and Bobby McGee"--Willie Nelson The Wiltern LG, Los Angeles, Sat Feb 22, 2003 (Kris Kristofferson) The veterans thought the nod would go to Ratdog’s version at the Wiltern on May 17, 2003, but the truth is I had to give Willie some props for covering his fellow Highwaymen member and close friend. The Ratdog version was tight too. 2nd Set Opener to boot.
The Dead w/ The Funk Brothers & Robert Hunter, Wednesday December 31, 2003, Oakland Arena
After a day of recuperating in the bay area including some mediocre Clam Chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf, we headed over to the Arena and entered as the Funk Brothers took the stage and led off with the Motown "Alright." We ended up heading up to the balcony, which was now open, and decided to catch some Motown before the show. I won’t go into a lot of details, but as I said earlier, seeing these guys made me rent the DVD Standing in the Shadows of Motown to hear their story. I highly recommend viewing it and the Funk Bros. are having a good time up there. All these guys used to do in Detroit was jam and play all day long. Then at night they would go out into the jazz and blues clubs in the Detroit metro region and play ‘til the wee hours of the morning. Then Berry Gordy brought Motown out to Los Angeles and that was pretty much it. A few of the guys went west, but most of the Funk Brothers stayed in Detroit. It wasn’t until the documentary that they all got back together and got reacquainted. Joan Osborne joined them for Stevie Wonder’s "Once in My Life" and personally I was psyched to hear the song "Function at the Junction." When I was at the Celtics-Lakers game at the Staples Center in December they played "Function" over the p.a as the teams were warming up and I thought to myself how good that would sound live. So I was pleasantly surprised when they played it. The original was by the legendary Shorty Long, author of "Here Comes’ the Judge" and a co-writer of "Devil with a Blue Dress On." You’ll never know what your going to learn at Itzy’s illusions.
At the set break, we got up and reseated ourselves more towards center ice. A good view from the third base angle, it was partially blocked by the lighting on the stage, but you could see most of the band. The Dead came out and launched into "Let the Good Times Roll", I got up and started to dance, but then looked around to see no one around me dancing. Well I knew I couldn’t sit for the show, so once they launched into Jack Straw everyone was up and boogying. Then came Fennario. I really like their arrangement of this song, especially how Joan sings the female parts. Along with Stagger Lee, those two songs really stood out this year for the Dead. Then we got a first set mid-set full on Weather Report Prelude>WRS Suite>Let it Grow. That was simply lights out. A great version of a song that’s now 30 years old. It’s like a symphony and believe me I was doing the conductor dance. Apparently, it’s a funny dance to watch me perform as Avery commented on my interpretation. A strong ending to the first set with "I Know You Rider" and New Years was to follow.
As the clock got close to midnight, a spaceship transcended from the back of the Arena to the stage and I don’t really know what happened. The next thing you know, Bill Walton and Mickey are banging a huge drum counting down from 10 to New Years. The Dead joined the fray, the balloons came down from the ceiling and Sugar Magnolia blared from the stage and everyone was dancing. A great set which turned very 1968-ish with "St. Stephen>William Tell Bridge">"Born Cross Eyed>Mountains of the Moon">Dark Star prior to drums. By now we had moved into a "dancing only" section at center ice but still up in the balcony. Out of space came the "Playin>Wheel>Playin" and afterwards, Weir said, "we’re gonna take a little break, we’ll be right back." The third set started around 1:40am and after a "Help>Slip>Truckin", the Dead had called it a night. A great show to ring in the New Year. Once again if that was it for Rob and Joan, well they did earn their stripes. The ride home the next day was tough for the first few hours. Big props to Avery for avoiding a huge crash that we witnessed right in front of us during the storm on New Years Day up in Oakland. We made it back to see the Bruins beat the Leafs (take that Dirty).
Crossing Them Of the List
This year marked a lot of 1st time appearances for this youngster. First of all, I finally saw Neil Young. I can’t believe it took me this long but it has given me a new appreciation for his music. I did get to check out Simon and Garfunkel who were in a word, timeless. What a great show. Willie Nelson was another rookie appearance as well. (Got to see him solo at Bridge School too!) And finally, speaking of a new appreciation, the Funk Brothers appearance at NYE with the Dead. I honestly rented the DVD when I got back and I am now on a crusade to get Earl Van Dyke recordings. Check it out
Dave Matthews and Friends, Thursday January 15, 2004, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
The first show of the calendar year and what better way to start off then a big show at a big place with big names. The Dave Matthews and Friends tour hit Los Angeles with special guest Trey Anastasio. On the last leg of their nationwide tour, Dave and Friends came to play on this night, but it would be their cover songs that would take center stage. Dave Matthews and his long time collaborator Tim Reynolds opened the show with a nice mellow acoustic set. The Staples Center is too big for this kind of intimate music. A smaller venue such as an opera house is much more suited for this sit-down style of playing. Honestly, I was distracted as well because I was in luxury suite, which was a first for me, believe it or not, at a concert. Their hour long set included a really nice version of "Crush" which had every single female under the age of 21 singing along. The set concluded with a jam and the rest of the Friends took the stage and joined Tim and Dave. Led by Trey, the rest of the band joined in on the electric opener, Dodo. Then things started to get a bit interesting as they launched into Peter Gabriel’s "Solsbury Hill" which brought the entire crowd to its feet. Looking around the Staples Center, you could see everyone dancing and singing along. Emmylou Harris then joined the band. After missing her opening set with her band Spyboy, (how can you go on that early, especially in Los Angeles?), it was good to at least hear her sing. They couldn’t have picked a better tune than Bob Dylan’s "Oh, Sister" off Desire, which was just a delight to hear live. It’s on one of my mix tapes (yes I still have a tapedeck) and gets played often in the car. Anyway, if that didn’t get my attention, then their version of "The Maker" with special guest Daniel Lanois certainly did. I had no idea that Lanois wrote this song. I’ve seen and heard it performed by the Jerry Garcia Band when Jerry was still with us. In fact, I looked up liner notes the next morning on the "Maker" and sure enough Daniel Lanois is the author. Even I learned something new, how about that? It wouldn’t stop there, a solid version of Paul Simon’s "American Tune" brought back memories from the S & G show earlier this fall. Then a show stopping version of Led Zeppelin’s "Fool in the Rain" and if you weren’t dancing now then you might as well been asleep as this rocked. Add the Beatles "Hey Bulldog" off the White Album and you could arguably say that this might be the best cover band of all time.
The Phish fans got their wish when Dave and Trey played "Waste" to start the encore, but the dancing fools got even a bigger wish with the show closer of Sly and the Family Stones’ "Thank You Lettin’ Be Myself Again" complete with Trey on drums, yes drums. That was great way to end the show. There were two posters available, but I got the less inexpensive one because you can’t have everything all the time.
Oddest Moment of 2003
Many of you read this earlier this year: When I saw the Dark Star Orchestra back in February at the House of Blues and figured out which show they were playing (9-19-87) from M.S.G because it was the Maggie’s Farm in the 2nd set for the Farm Aid crowd, I was in the men’s room and I heard someone say it was 9-9-87 and I said (as I was looking down at the urinal) "no, that’s Providence, this is 9-19-87 MSG." And when I looked up to see who I corrected, it was none other than the lead singer of the other Grateful Dead cover band in town, Cubensis. I walked out and shook my head as I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Very surreal.
John Scofield Band/Soulive Saturday January 17, 2004 House Of Blues, Los Angeles
Two bands, one venue and a lot of jams, what more could you ask for on a Saturday night on the Sunset Strip? Well thanks to the NAMM (National Assn of Music Merchants) the jamband community was treated to a bonus. The House of Blues hosted a double bill consisting of veteran jazz guitarist, John Scofield and his latest band plus a return encounter from the jam filled, jazz orientated Soulive. It was a night where the two bands shined not only in their respective sets, but also when they collaborated.
Scofield’s band opened the evening a sizzling set. It really was on fire. The intensity in Scofield’s eyes comes out in the music. One thing that was noticeable throughout the set was the way Scofield related to the crowd. He seemed to be getting energy of off the audience members dancing right in front of him. And the crowd responded accordingly as the heads were bobbing up and down and from side to side for what seemed to be an eternity. The latest addition to the band, bassist Mark Kelley, fit right in with Scofield upbeat rhythms and ‘stayed on the one’* with his chunky base lines. Mark has replaced, Andy Hess, who is now with Gov’t Mule. The band played several selections of Scofield’s latest cd release, Up All Night including a scorching "Thakhathali." Guitarist Avi Bortnick added a new spice to the mix as used samples on his ‘ibook’ during the jams. Scofield later acknowledged the fact that Avi was using the latest in computer meets music innovation. Bortnick then busted out his game boy and started playing "Super Mario Brothers" as Scofield was explaining the equipment. It was pretty funny. They closed out their nearly hour and a half long set with a huge jam and set the stage for more to come. Soulive hit the stage with a completely different look this visit. When they co-headlined with M’Shell Ndegeocello this past October, it was a set with Ivan Neville and saxophonist Sam Kinninger. This time around it was just the trio on stage for the opening number, but they were quickly joined by noted rapper Talib Kweli and launched into P. Diddy’s "Bad Boys for Life" back into the opening jam of "Steppin." I have to be honest, I had to look that one up as I’m not up on P.Diddy’s songbook these days. Ever since he dropped J. Lo, I’ve held a vendetta against him. Anyway, Talib wouldn’t be the only one joining the Evans boys and Eric Krasno on stage this night. About halfway through the set, the venerable John Scofield came out and delighted not only the crowd, but the band as well. "What You See" and "Hottetnot", the latter being a Scofield original were played at a vigorous pace and the crowd danced at the same speed. It was truly a sight to be seen. Scofield left the stage and Soulive carried on with a really tight version including a hot Clavinet solo during "Uncle Jr." before Mark Kelley joined them on stage for a set ending "Tuesday Night Squad." The eye contact and interplay between the musicians was interesting to observe. When the jamming gets so complex, it sometimes becomes easy to get lost playing or sometimes even listening because there is so much going on at the same time. However, being true professionals, not only did they not ‘drop’ any notes, but Kelley added a lot of flavor to the set closer. Finally, the encore featured a couple of the Lettuce crew, both Adam Deitch (he was Scofields’ drummer) and bassist Erick Coomes got into the "Do it Again" encore. Not the Steely Dan version, but Soulive’s funky song with the same title. Can you say Iceberg Stealth Lettuce? I know, no horns, but you get the idea.
Los Angeles gets a lot of flack for not being a live music city. The thing is that people don’t know that there is a real good scene going on here. Of course all the bright lights and big names probably give L.A a reputation. However, not on this night. Soulive and the John Scofield band certainly delivered on this night and who knows, maybe changed the way music, at least live music, is perceived in the Southland.
Best Guest Star
How about Carlos sitting in with the Trey Anastasio Band for most of the 1st set and most of the 2nd set back in May at the Warfield. Oddly enough, Carlos did not play on the "Black Dog" cover and first set closer sung by Jennifer Hartwick and the aforementioned "Root Down." The jams in that show were so swampy that they had to call in one of those special riverboats that you see on the Bayou to pull people out the mire.
Maceo Parker @ The House of Blues, Los Angeles, CA
This show was one for the ages. This show was a perfect example of why we see live music. This show is already being hailed as a ‘Show of the Year’ contender. Why you ask? Well first of all, you had Maceo Parker and that in itself is usually enough, but sitting in with the band was the legendary Fred Wesley on trombone. Fred and Maceo are two of the original JB Horns from James Browns band, who coincidentally played a week earlier on the same stage sans the JB Horns. So from the get go the funk was on big time. Not a sold out show, so there was room to dance for everyone. There was extra security, so maybe we were going to get a guest star. Well we would, but first the 61 year old Maceo would have the stage and he owned it. With the energy of a man half his age, Maceo danced to the funky jams, he played saxophone on the funky jams and most of all he interacted with the crowd on the funky jams. Now it was time for the guest appearance and who better to take the stage on a Friday night in Los Angeles than Prince and the New Revolution. They came on the stage and the House of Blues went besides itself. Apparently, there was a heavy set woman who came charging onto the floor and knocked down anything or anyone in her path just to get closer to Prince. I think she thought he was dinner. The New Revolution launched into BlackStreet’s "No Diggiddy" complete with Prince on back up vocals. It was really a sight to be seen. It was a scene. 80s Moment of the Night: During "No Diggiddy" Prince’s women were kissing his boots while he rested them on the amps. Something’s never change. Sorry to say there was no Apollonia sightings or Wendy either for that fact. The rest of the show featured members of Maceo’s band including a nice version of "It Takes Two" with back up vocalist, Candy Dulfer, from the "the greatest little funk orchestra on earth." Maceo’s son, Corey Parker, also got into the mix with his hip hop vocal stylings. Maceo’s website also notes that it was one of the greatest shows ever. They played for over 3 and half hours, prompting HOB security to shut the curtain on them. Have they no respect ?
Last Call: In Remembrance
We lost several key figures in 2003, so raise a glass one last time:
Dictator Idi Amin
Singer/Songwriter Warren Zevon
Pro Wrestler Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig
R & B Singer Barry White
Rerun Fred Berry
Children’s Television’s Mr. Fred Rogers
King of the 1 Liners Bob Hope
Actor John Ritter
Country Singers Johnny and June Carter Cash
Dancer/Actor Gregory Hines
Author George Plimpton
Gimme a Break’s Nell Carter
Diet Guru Dr. Robert C. Atkins
Top 5 Shows of 2003
5. The Neil Young Bridge School Benefit Concerts October 25 & 26 Shoreline Amphitheater, Mtn View. CA
4. Porter, Batiste & Stoltz June 18, 2003 House of Blues, Cambridge, MA (now closed)
3. Simon and Garfunkel November 18, 2003 Staples Center, Los Angeles
2. Willie Nelson February 22, 2003 Wiltern LG, Los Angeles
1. Trey Anastasio Band w/Carlos Santana May 31, 2003 The Warfield Theater, SF
Performer of the Year
He is a regular member of three different bands as of right now. He is rumored to be joining his fourth band very soon. He has X-Mas parties every year that seem to get better and better. And his roadie looks like a miniature version of him . . . congratulations to Warren Haynes, you are Itzy’s Illusions POTY.
Pick Up the Pieces
Great to see Bill Murray pick up the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy/musical. He’s always been one of my favorites, now I have to go see "Lost in Translation."
The West Hollywood House of Blues has a big week coming up with Stevie Wonder, the Counting Crows, Elvis Costello and the Strokes highlighting American Express week. Gotta love corporate America.
I got to check out both Dexter Grove and a Relix favorite, Mother Jones earlier this month at 14 Below in Santa Monica. Dexter Grove has the sound and once they reach a harmonious agreement, then I think they’ll really take off. Mother Jones was tight as well. They play with a lot of cohesiveness and vigor.
Speaking of the late Gregory Hines. I was next to Gregory and his Jaguar a few years ago on Pico Blvd. in Westwood near the Westside Pavilion. I rolled down my window and he did the same and I said, "That’s weird, I was just watching Running Scared the other morning and I thought to myself ‘why wasn’t there a sequel?" He responded with, "I know, I’ve been asking myself the same things for years." We wished each other well and went our merry ways which would be West to the Beach
Lindros’ punch that broke Thornton’s cheek last week was a good one, but that’s one of the few highlights the Rangers have had all season. Jagr will help but that team needs defensemen like I need hair on top of my head.
Another Boston boy came West as Dan Rocket has embarked on the West Coast scene. I caught the Dan Rocket Band at the Lion’s Den on the campus of LMU recently. The Greasy Beats Joel Bowers sat in for a few tunes including a real funky "Cissy Strut." It was the 2nd day back for the students of LMU, I wonder if they thought I was the new BMOC?
Finally, Roger Clemens signing with Houston was a no-brainer. After all he lives nearby and both his agents, Randy and Allan Hendricks, are on the board of directors of MinuteMaid Stadium. Now the Red Sox and Yankees fans have something in common . . .
Who’s my plus one?

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