On May 3rd, 2014 a host of New Orleans, Country and Rock & Roll royalty walked onto the Saenger Theater stage to pay tribute to the Big Easy’s most famous funky-voodoo, gris-gris shaker, Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack. The concert was a celebration of the man’s music and a testament to the wide range of his appeal; the night was captured and will be released in various formats such as the two CD version reviewed here.
The whole shebang kicks off with the surprise of the set as an unannounced Bruce Springsteen joins the good Doctor and company for a take on his biggest and best track, “Right Place Wrong Time”. After that ripping rock star moment the show settles into more of the cities vibe, as angels mix with devils via gospel and hip shaking boogie woogie.
Local customs shine while church is in session for Cyril Neville’s take on “My Indian Red”, and returns with Mavis Staples later as she “Lays Her Burden Down”. Before that however, Irma Thomas gets emotional on “Since I Fell For You” while Jason Isbell does a restrained soulful version of “Blow Wind Blow”. While the show takes it’s times to get rolling, some early energetic high points are Anders Osborne and Bill Kreutzmann bluesy “Somebody Changed My Lock” and Tab Benoit’s great version of “Stack-A-Lee” before Big Chief Monk Boudreaux takes control of “Big Chief”.
That local New Orleans spice is everywhere, from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (supporting Widespread Panic) on “Familiar Reality” to the perfect sweet groove of Allen Toussaint doing “Life” and the show stopping vocals of John Boutte during “Let’s Make A Better World”. Another scorching highlight is Warren Haynes blazing (in both guitar and vocals) through a full throttle take on “You Lie” from Dr. John’s recent Grammy winner, Locked Down.
One more big name, John Fogerty, gets swinging with the horn drenched “New Orleans” before the man of the hour himself ends the night with three tracks that allow Mac to show off all his skills. First slowing it down for “Come Rain or Come Shine” (complete with a weeping trumpet from Terence Blanchard) then getting back to his Nite Tripper roots via the spaced out classic “Walk on Gilded Splinters” before wrapping the whole night up on the mid era pop gem “Such A Night”.
The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac & His Music is an excellent capturing of a historic night in the Crescent City honoring one of its living legends. It encapsulates Dr. John’s full career while still pushing forward; long live Mac and his magic.