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Published: 2014/06/05
by Larson Sutton

Little Feat
Live in Holland 1976

In retrospect, Little Feat would’ve been an ideal choice as the band that best represented the United States during its bicentennial birth-year. After all, this was a group that threaded together its various influences as well as any, a musical mélange of swampy blues and funky soul, driven by second line grooves out of New Orleans, powering down the proud highway of American rock and roll. On Live in Holland 1976, the Southern California sextet, with a road-weary, blurry-eyed ease that exemplified the decade’s hedonistic haze, dazzles a sun-drenched festival crowd in an hour-long performance.

Recorded at a time that bordered two distinct periods of development for the Feat- as the band became less a vehicle for founder Lowell George’s uniquely creative vision and more a collaborative ensemble- the repertoire sits just shy of the turn toward fusion that ultimately led to George’s dissatisfaction. It’s also a year short of the tour that would result in the seminal Waiting for Columbus. In this respect, the Live in Holland CD/DVD set is a perfect foil to the other concert releases that exist in the catalog of the unit’s 45-year history.

Opening with an already-in-motion “Skin it Back,” the cruising altitude energy is immediately apparent, the band soaring, yet relaxed, pushing forward with comfort and confidence. George seems particularly engaged, sporting a turned-up cowboy hat, resplendent purple shirt, and dangling cigarette. His socket-wrench slide devastates, whining and winding, while Paul Barrere’s equally proficient guitar bends and wails. On tour in support of The Last Record Album, the set offers “One Love Stand,” and “All That You Dream,” the latter’s loose rendition here a fine example of the band’s ability to play within the framework of an arrangement and deliver something new.

The real star of the day, though, is the “Dixie Chicken/Tripe Face Boogie” couplet. Heavier and more direct than the classic Columbus version, the pairing rips a hole in the sky behind Bill Payne’s relentless keyboard complements and the dueling guitars of Barrere and George. As good as the these three are, their equals in the rhythm section- bassist Kenny Gradney, drummer Richie Hayward, and percussionist Sam Clayton- are just as formidable. In a foreshadowing of the emerging European punk scene, “Teenage Nervous Breakdown” shreds through the encore in an amphetamine-like flurry, perhaps putting the Continent on notice that this ‘new’ sound is really just American rock and roll played really fast.

Granted, much of the material on the set, both audio and video, has been circulated through bootlegs and YouTube for years. The improvements on this release are considerable, and even without the sheer historical significance of this collection make the double-disc a must-have. Little Feat was quite a spectacular band in 1976, and Live in Holland is the proof.

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