B.B. King Blues Club, November 19, 2004:
We enjoy a knockout first set from Raul Midon. Kevin and I are so impressed that we go up to the B.B. King Club store to purchase Raul’s ‘live’ CD, “Raul Midon.” On the way back to our table, I run into Al, the bassist for the new band I have just joined. How incredible! Al is here with visiting family members from California to see Richie Havens. He had no idea I was coming to this show. He introduces me to Jack and Lini, who live just north of San Francisco in Fairfax. We are all very impressed with the outstanding performance of Raul Midon. We are anxiously anticipating the main attraction tonight, Richie Havens.
At 8:37 P.M. Richie Havens comes on stage. He is playing a black Guild acoustic guitar. He is accompanied by Walter Parks on lead acoustic guitar. Richie is welcomed by rousing applause from the capacity crowd at B.B. King’s. Richie Havens introduces the first number by describing his early Village days here in New York, “where inspirational tunes were exchanged at tables no one else wanted, behind the pole.” He elaborates further about the song, by revealing that he sat with his friend who eventually took this casual exchange of musical material on to record the definitive version of the now famous composition, “All Along The Watchtower.” The audience is treated to an immediate groove and instantaneous song recognition. Richie Havens’ right strumming hand is as ardent and steady as ever. The song is performed with fervor and ferocity. Walter Parks plays tasteful leads along with Richie’s strong rhythm playing and standout vocal presentation.
A major 7 sound leads us into the next song, “Paradise.” The tempo is a bright and uplifting 4/4-time that is constant and pulsating. The lead guitar clearly complements the vocal. Richie Havens is such a glorious storyteller, as he sings the vocal refrain, “paradise is a hard place to find.”
Richie Havens talks about the first person that inspired him to pickup the guitar, a strange person in the late fifties. The fifties was a very special time when the whole planet was, “dumb.” He postures with the guitar in different positions to imitate how this person presented the music of that era. Richie says, “in 2004 we’re right back to the fifties.”
The next song is from Quicksilver Messenger Service, “What About Me?” The presentation is captivating, enchanting and mysterious. The vocal is powerful and impassioned as Richie Havens paints a gorgeous musical mosaic that’s moving, charismatic, satisfying and deep.
“On The Road To Calvary” is a slow and sincere ballad complemented by a gorgeous melody. The excellent lead guitar and unrelenting rhythmic strumming, fully intertwine and blend together as one. The song is tearfully moving and sincere. The heartfelt vocal delivery is deeply emotional as the audience is stilled. “Way Down Deep” is a lively, straightforward 4/4-time composition that hits an excellent groove. Walter Parks executes superior lead guitar fills between the verses.
Stephanie Winters is introduced on cello, which she plays magnificently. This next song is on the new CD, Grace Of The Sun. A tremendous, slow, emphatic and articulate version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” This arrangement is hard to recognize, as it is so radically different. The song reveals itself in the vocal refrain, “but we got to get ourselves back to the garden.” This musical anthem of the sixties is performed with deep feeling and conviction.
Richie Havens executes his signature double-time strumming and breaks into, “Here Comes The Sun.” Everyone is smiling. This version is spirited, uplifting, joyful and full of life and love.
Richie Havens entertains the most famous of his compositions, “Freedom.” This song, from the original Woodstock concert in 1969, is world-renowned. Everyone joins in the celebrated vocal refrain, “freedom.” Richie plays two emotional and driving encore songs. The tempo is potent and powerful. His steady strumming is totally hypnotic, succinct and magnetic. He breaks a string and keeps right on playing: charismatic, furious and heated. No stopping!
Richie Havens puts on a fabulous show tonight. He remains one of America’s true musical treasures. His musical style and compositions, soothing narrative delivery, humorous thoughts and experiences, are clearly conveyed from the stage with glowing warmth of serene beauty and grace. Everyone is thrilled from tonight’s inspirational performance.
Thank you Richie Havens!
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