[Photo by Christian James]
These guys like to take the warhorses and really stretch them out, toying with the details. There’s Fred Tackett for example, attaching a muted trumpet intro to the slow buildup of Dixie Chicken. Or the rhythm section (bassist Kenny Gradney, percussionist Sam Clayton and interim drummer Gabe Ford) entering a really “out” section of jamspace during the song’s gooey, improv-heavy middle. Or the rippling funk jams that blew Spanish Moon wide open: lengthy, bracing Barrere guitar flights that rode the pocket. Or the quick left turns into choice covers like Long Black Veil, The Weight and Tennessee Jed that were given enough space to not feel like distractions from whatever song they’d bled out of.
The band has such great gestalt; songs get to marinate and cook in their own juices, rarely too long and often just long enough, to provide maximum impact. That’s what I turn to when met by Feat disparagers convinced these shows are just 20+ minute versions of Feat classics with guitar and keyboard solos there to mark time.
The highs from here were many, not the least of which was a sit-in from strings master Larry Campbell — who hasn’t Larry played with at this point? — staying for more than half the show and providing fiddle that was often tender (Willin) and often furious (Feats Don’t Fail Me Now). Willin itself was dedicated to Hayward, and Barrere milked it for every drop, including a crowd singalong on Don’t Bogart That Joint. Tara Nevins of Donna the Buffalo — which opened and deserved a lot more of the crowd’s attention than it got, at least where I was sitting — lent washboard to a sizzling Cajun Girl, which ended with her, Campbell and Tackett standing in a semi-circle, jamming away with zydeco abandon.
Only a few times did the band get lost in the muck — the stronger jams left more pedestrian you-solo-now-you-solo moments a little stale — but the show was a nice mix of folk-rock and footstompers, blues and boogie. Little Feat shows have a nourishing effect. Much like the records, they’re at root great party music and rock ‘n’ roll – blown cues, chuckles, in-jokes and indulgences and all — and the band is so committed to preserving that vibe that its ace professionalism and warm-hearted way about things has a way of sneaking up on you.