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Hot Tuna, Beacon Theater, NYC: Keep those lamps trimmed & burning November 26, 2005

Posted by Anton A in American music, Hot Tuna.
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Tuna made their annual Thanksgiving visit to NYC’s Beacon Theatre on Saturday night.  I’ve missed the last two, so was looking forward to this one with more than the usual degree of anticipation.  True to form, they smoked the place up, as did the audience. 

Those who’ve read some of my other reviews will know how fond I am of this New York institution.  Do I mean the Tuna Thanksgiving shows or the Beacon?  Both, of course.  We had seats in the third row of the lower balcony of this splendid beaux-arts musical palace, giving us a fine view of all the gilt statuary and colorful murals, as well as the stage.

If you’re a Tuna fan, you know what to expect: a heaping dose of American blues/folk music and Tuna originals, expertly played by a group of dedicated musicians.  There’s little pretense of putting on a rock show here, just some of the finest playing you’ll ever see.  Jack & Jorma were joined by the extraordinary Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin for the first set, and on a collection of odd-looking  stringed instruments during the electric set.  The hour-long acoustic set featured the three of them; Erik Diaz then made it four and kicked up the energy on drums for the 90-minute electric set.

Jack threw down the gauntlet right at the start by pumping the volume and unleashing a thunderous solo in the middle of That’ll Never Happen No More. I don’t think the rest of the band was expecting that!  After the song, Jorma, with a big grin, advised Jack, “Maybe next time you ought to warm up a little more before you try a solo like that.”

Here’s the setlist.  They played five songs I hadn’t heard before; not bad considering that they haven’t done a new studio CD in a couple of decades. 

Set 1 Acoustic:

That’ll Never Happen No More
Blue Railroad Train
Parchman Farm > Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning
I’ll Let You Know Before I Leave
Uncle Sam Blues
Prohibition Blues
I’ll Be All Right Someday (Rev. Gary Davis tune)
Hesitation Blues
Just Because (a polka!)

Set 2 Electric:

True Religion
Living Just For You
I Can’t Be Satisfied
I Wish You Would
Trial By Fire
Roads And Roads &
Talkin’ Bout You
Rock Me Baby
Corners Without Exits
Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man
Funky #7

The electric set reached an early crescendo with searing versions Can’t Be Satisfied and Wish You Would.  They settled back for some more leisurely musical journeys before scorching the place with Rock Me Baby – took me right back to the Bless Its  Pointed Little Head Airplane album – and then really bringing the funk with the last two numbers.

Unfortunately the Beacon’s house rules didn’t leave time for an encore; the band seemed ready to go another half-hour easily and the night felt unfinished, but they had to stop at 11:00 sharp.  At least they didn’t waste time running offstage and back.

Tuna are cutting a swath through the Northeast over the next week before heading back to the Midwest; I advise everyone to go see them and get your soul psychedelicized one more time.