Adelaide, South Australia. 28th March 2018.
What can be written, that hasn’t already been written, about a band that has been with us for over 50 years? The words legends and icons are used too freely these days to describe what is in fact, little more than the ordinary and mundane. Let me tell anyone who doesn’t already know about the phenomenon that is Canned Heat. This band is anything but ordinary or mundane, they are in fact true legends. Still sounding fresh after so many years entertaining us.
The stage backdrop at The Gov, in the Adelaide suburb of Hindmarsh, was a Canned Heat, 50th Anniversary (1966-2016) banner. Reminding us that since 1966 the band have been boogieing their way into the history books. Racking up award after award, such as:
In the USA, Gold Record 45’s Awards for over 1 Million Sales of ‘ON THE ROAD AGAIN’, ‘GOING UP THE COUNTRY’ and ‘LET’S WORK TOGETHER’
In the UK, Silver Award for Over 250,000 Sales of ‘ON THE ROAD AGAIN and ‘LET’S WORK TOGETHER’
Gold Awards for their ‘BOOGIE WITH CANNED HEAT’ and ‘FUTURE BLUES’ Albums.
Platinum Awards for their ‘LIVING THE BLUES’, ‘COOKBOOK’ and ‘HOOKER AND HEAT’ album
Gold and Platinum Awards for their ‘WOODSTOCK’ album
Gold Awards in both the USA and UK – Appearing on John Lee Hooker‘s ‘THE HEALER’.
This night was definitely a Bluesfest, in the true sense of the word. The age range of the crowd showed that new fans are still discovering Canned Heat. As I looked around I could see there were millennials ‘boogieing on down’ alongside Gen Xers, and that’s not something you see every day.
This gig, presented by Bluesfest Touring, was the only South Australian date for the band, before they depart to NSW for their Byron bay Bluesfest dates (30 & 31 March), and then back to the US for further gigs from May.
Canned Heat, Adolfo “FITO” de la Parra (Drums), Larry “THE MOLE” Taylor (Bass and Lead Guitar), John “JP’ Paulus (Lead Guitar and Bass) and Dale “KINGFISH” Spalding (Harmonica and Guitar) were on stage, tuning their own instruments before their set started, proving just how down to earth these guys still are.
The crowd was provided with seating and tables but it wasn’t long before the front of stage area was packed with people wanting to demonstrate their boogie skills.
Looking easy and relaxed, the band took us ‘On the road again’. Their easy interaction with the crowd endeared them to the audience from the moment they started their set. Moving from hit to hit they smoothly and seamlessly melted away the decades. Hits from the album ‘HALLELUJAH’ ‘Same all over’ and ‘Shake it and beak it’ from the ‘FUTURE BLUES’ album, got the crowd moving from early on. The dreamy harmonica playing of Dale Spalding coupled with the – oh so sweet – weeping guitar of John Paulus, epitomises the blues for me. BB King once said that “If a child is crying, then he has got the blues …” The spontaneity and soul wrenching sound of the blues, played by Canned Heat live, is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
It would be easy for a band who have been together for so long to comfortably just ‘go through the motions’ but that’s not what Canned Heat are about. These guys play the songs we’ve been listening to for decades, with a passion that proves why they rose – and have stayed – at the top, for so long. Asking “Anyone remember Woodstock?” Spalding got a resounding “yes” from a crowd which, perhaps only half, could possibly be old enough to actually “remember” Woodstock, but it was nonetheless a smooth Segway into what has become the unofficial anthem of the Woodstock music festival. ‘Going up the country’ from the 1968 album ‘LIVING THE BLUES’, was one of the songs played by Canned Heat at the legendary festival back in 1969. And as those famous opening bars rang out, the crowd erupted into a cheer loud enough to lift the roof. The song quickly became a singalong with the audience singing louder than the band at times.
Solo instrumental performances by each band member throughout the night, reminded us just how masterful these guys are on their respective instruments. John “JP” Paulus treated us to a guitar solo that was exactly that, just him. No other instruments were played during Paulus‘ solo, and it earned a much deserved standing ovation. Paulus and Larry Taylor swapped roles for ‘future blues’ with Taylor on Vocals and lead guitar, and Paulus on bass, reminding us again how versatile these musicians are, as they easily slid into their respective roles.
At the end of their set they stayed on stage and gave a final bow to the audience. Everyone expected the familiar routine of band leaving stage, crowd chanting for more, band returning for an encore. Not this band. As Dale Spalding remarked to loud cheers “what’s the use of going off and coming back again”. They then treated us to an extended encore that demonstrated what an encore should be. Teasing the audience with the underlying riff of ‘on the road again’ they ad-libbed, soloed and boogied away, and the crowd loved every second. At one point Adolfo “FITO” de la Parra, was left on stage alone as he wowed everyone with a spectacular drum solo, before all members came back on stage to finish their encore, ending with the motto “Don’t forget to boogie“. Another coup for Bluesfest touring and The Gov. bringing this legendary band to Adelaide.