I am always amazed at how some of the artists we see today have been able to retain all of the essence and nuance of their sound from back in the day and reproduce it live on the concert stage, some 40-50+ years later, at the ripe old age of their mid-to-late 60's on into their mid-70's ... it truly is incredible.
Sadly, Eric Burdon is NOT one of those artists.
And it's a shame, too, because it wasn't for lack of trying ... I believe he put his all into every song he sang Monday Night at The City Winery ... he just didn't have the power behind that voice to pull it off. As such, his vocals came off weak and, at times, virtually non-existent ... and (far too often) way off key and almost narrative without any sense of the melody.
Too bad ... because he has such an impressive hit list. In fact, it was GREAT to finally be able to see him perform the songs I grew up with in a live setting ... and the crowd genuinely seemed to love him, offering up several standing ovations along the way. And, deep in my heart, I felt it, too, simply because of who he was and what he had done. I liken it to the aging bluesman who's still up there on the stage performing well into his 90's, giving it all he's got, even when he hasn't got much left to give ... he still presents a powerful stage presence and was such a HUGE part of our lifetime soundtrack just being there with him at all is something of a treat that still makes me smile at the very thought of who we saw last night. (Then again, one of the folks at our table, a coworker in fact, told us how he saw a 91 year old vintage bluesman perform a set over the weekend in which the guy performed the same song three times before a fellow band member came over and said "Let's try this one instead" to put the show back on track.
Eric Burdon and the Animals had a VERY impressive hit list in the '60's ... placing fifteen hits in The National Top 40 ... and he did the majority of them on stage Monday Night. (Surprisingly missing was his 1970 #1 Hit with War, "Spill The Wine", which is one that I absolutely expected to hear but wasn't included in his set.)
Burdon needed help taking the stage (and stood mostly stationary for the majority of the concert) ... and it took him a little while to get things going vocally.
He opened his show with "Mama Told Me Not To Come", a Randy Newman track he cut before Three Dog Night took it to #1 in 1970. Along the way we were also treated to Animals classics like "When I Was Young", "Inside Looking Out", "See See Rider" and a couple of new tracks that included "The Devil and Jesus" and "Ridin' On That Bo Diddley Special."
Things really came alive when he did "Ridin' On That Bo Diddley Special" and then told a story about being at Diddley's funeral. Burdon didn't really talk much between songs but that story ... and the one he told about performing at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 ... were quite entertaining. ("The Devil and Jesus" and "Ridin' On That Bo Diddley Special" both come from Eric's critically acclaimed most recent album, "'Til Your River Runs Dry". Forgotten Hits was fortunate enough to be able to "sneak peek" a track from this LP prior to its release in 2013. I should point out that he is in FINE voice throughout this LP.)
He also mentioned his surprise at seeing so many people in the theater that night, figuring that most of us would have been home glued to our tv sets watching the biggest fight of the year. (From the sounds of things, the Clinton / Trump Debate lived up to its expected spectacle ... honestly, I think we were better entertained from our vantage point!)
Next up were "Don't Bring Me Down", "In The Pines", "Monterey", "Bring It On Home To Me", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and his set closer, "House Of The Rising". The obligatory encore included "It's My Life" and "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and a rousing rendition of "Hold On, I'm Comin'".
Burdon was backed by a six piece band who were smoking all night long and, despite some vocal disappointments here and there, I have to say that I still enjoyed the concert. (The City Winery is the ultimate venue to see a show like this ... it has a very "up close and personal" feel and Burdon has sold The Winery out for nearly every performance he's ever done here. In fact, he'll be back up on The City Winery stage on Wednesday, the 28th ... so if you've always wanted to see this legend live, now is your chance to do so. Ticket information is below.)
There are VERY few select seats still available for this show, so if you're interested in attending, I'd suggest you make your move now!!!
THE ERIC BURDON HIT LIST:
1964 - The House Of The Rising Sun (#1 Nationally / #1 Chicago)
1965 - I'm Crying (#17 / #9)
1965 - Boom Boom (#35 / #18)
1965 - Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood (#15 / #17)
1965 - Bring It On Home To Me (#23 / #21)
1965 - We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (#12 / #12)
1965 - It's My Life (#20 / #8)
1966 - Inside Looking Out (#32 / #26)
1966 - Don't Bring Me Down (#11 / #7)
1966 - See See Rider (#10 / #13)
1966 - Help Me Girl (#29 / EX)
1967 - When I Was Young (#15 / #21)
1967 - San Franciscan Nights (#8 / xx)
1967 - Monterey (#10 / xx)
1968 - Sky Pilot (#14 / #11)
1983 - The Night (#48 / xx)
all of the above by The Animals or Eric Burdon and the Animals
1970 - Spill The Wine (#1 / #1)
1970 - They Can't Take Away Our Music (#37 / xx)
above two by Eric Burdon and War
REFLECTIONS ON ERIC BURDON AND THE ANIMALS:
I've made this point before in Forgotten Hits but it's worth reiterating again now having just seen legendary Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Eric Burdon.
When The British Invasion first burst upon the scene in 1964, it literally turned my world upside down. I may have been a ten year old kid at the time but THIS is when my life truly began. I have been consumed by music ever since.
The sights and sounds of this era and the joy and excitement that it brought me has never dissipated ... and we've seen nothing like it ever since.
For the most part, all the groups looked and sounded pretty much the same ... Beatles haircuts and fun, British pop music. Sure, there were exceptions ... like the much-scruffier looking Rolling Stones (although their impact would be bigger in 1965 than it was in 1964), The Kinks, who provided a little more "edge" to their music, the jumping-jacks routine provided by Freddie and the Dreamers ... but NOTHING ... and NO ONE ... could have prepared this kid for the likes of The Animals.
When "The House Of The Rising Sun" first came out of my little transistor radio in the Fall of '64, I had never heard ANYTHING like it before. (And growing up here in Chicago, The Home Of The Blues, this is really saying something.)
Eric Burdon's vocal just reached down deep inside you and grabbed your soul ... and he's still hanging on to it some 52 years later. What WAS this music??? It sure wasn't the pop of The Beatles, the harmonies of The Searchers, the thump of The Dave Clark Five or the grunge of The Rolling Stones. No, this was something COMPLETELY different ... and I couldn't get enough of it.
To my ears, The Animals never captured the complete gut-wrenching rawness of that track again ... but I sure did love their hits "Don't Bring Me Down", "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place", "It's My Life", "Baby Let Me Take You Home" (a B-SIde I played insistently back in 1964), "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and, later, "Sky Pilot". The Soundtrack Of My Life indeed!
I may have found the sad reality of Eric Burdon's performance a little disappointing last night ... but nothing will ever break the spirit I feel for this music. Timeless ... Classic ... and truly unlike any other of its era. I love it!