They hit it and quit it
The Concert for Curtis was held here in Portland last night -- a sweet night in Northwest music history. Curtis himself did a fine set to start the evening off -- can't go wrong with 15 strong pieces behind you, including Linda Hornbuckle and Janice Scroggins. "Tonight, you're going to get knocked back," he promised, and his own performance alone was enough to make good on that one. Salgado was obviously touched by the outpouring of affection he's received since the news of his illness hit the streets. "I've been crying like a three-year-old," he observed at one point. And yet he kept things light and upbeat for this, the largest so far in a series of concerts in his honor.
Little Charlie and the Nightcats then proceeded to steal the show with a blistering (and hysterical) set of up-tempo blues numbers. They said they'll be in Vancouver on Saturday -- and they mean our 'Couv -- Butterbean, you'd better see this one.
Everclear came out next and was... well, Everclear, which I don't understand, but hey, they did throw a bone to the predominantly geezer audience with "Brown Eyed Girl." After intermission, Taj Mahal rocked the house, showing what can be done when you're 64. He even conjured up the ghost of Otis Redding with "Mr. Pitiful."
At which point John Belushi's widow, Judith, got up and said a few words about Curtis's being the inspiration for the Blues Brothers. Everybody already knew, but it was nice to remember, and nice that she was there.
Then Robert Cray came on and did his usual spectacular job -- not flashy, not jump-out-of-your-seat-and-dance music, but as pure a blues as you'll ever hear. Cray's voice and his guitar licks have always been impeccable, but they've only gotten crisper since I last saw him in a live show more than a decade ago. If you're not in the right frame of mind for his performance, you may find it boring -- the sound is so perfect, it almost seems canned. But if you think of him along the lines of a classical musician, and keep your ears attuned to the songs he's written, and watch him get in touch with something bigger than the whole show, you realize how special he is. Cray started his set with "Phone Booth," one of his early, early hits and an obvious tribute to his days as a guy who played all the hot spots in Eugene with Curtis. Now he's touring Europe with some guy named Eric Clapton.
I never did see the band that had both Cray and Salgado in it. With Robert so tight and Curtis so loose (especially then), it must have been quite a combination. And I suspect the parting must have been hard.
Anyway, the babysitter clock precluded our staying for Steve Miller, but no doubt he took things in a different, more frenetic, direction at show's end.
The Rose Garden Theater of the Clouds configuration, which I'd never seen first-hand, turns out to be a fine venue. The sound is surprisingly good, all the seats that they use have clean sight lines, and you've got nice facilities for auxiliary functions like the bars and last night's silent auction. A few shrink-wrapped longboxes of the early CD "Curtis Salgado and the Stilettos" were going for a hundred bucks and up -- cool. (While queueing up for an $8 microbrew -- ouch! I hope Curtis got some of that! -- I got to see Gary Payton hit his big shot and Dirk Nowitzki miss his last free throw, much to the pleasure of some hoops fans that were huddled around a Rose Garden TV set.)
It was a good-sized crowd, to be sure; although there were some unsold seats, the place felt packed in pretty well. I don't know how much money they raised for Curtis's medical care, but I hope that it and the other benefit shows they've been holding for him on the West Coast are enough to get the guy around the big corner up ahead. He is a treasure.