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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

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.

Comments (8)

Sounds like a great show. I used to see both Curtis and Cray, separate and together, down in Eugene during the late '70s and early '80s. Salgado's band was the Nighthawks, and when they jammed with Cray's group they all became the Crayhawks. I have vague but pleasant memories of late nights at the old Eugene Hotel and a beer joint across Franklin from the campus called, I think, Murphy's.

My 23-year old stepson has been dealing with liver cancer for 4 years. After surgery, chemo, a couple of bouts of 'interventional radiology,' some time in a clinical trial, and more chemo, he's doing unbelievably well considering what the docs told us at first.

We're all pulling for Curtis.

I thought your review of Robert Cray was right on. I wouldn't have used the word "boring" but he can be polished to a fault. I'll always trade some ragged edges for a great moment of expression. In the late 70s, my band and Robert Cray's would drink together at a place called "The Questing Beast" on Stark. We would be moving in, they would be moving out, or the other way around. I used to think, "If it were 1958 in Chicago, Robert Cray would have a huge career." The licks were so clean, it was like another time before feedback. I remember telling Richard Cousins, the bass player back then, "You guys are too smooth. You have to cut loose more and get crazy." I wanted to see some power chords and some rage. Later as I watched Robert Cray performing on TV, I realized it had worked out pretty well for him anyway. I know he can rock out as he did in the Chuck Berry documentary, but that's not him, and ultimately you have to be yourself. He's spent several decades succeeding at it so more power to him.

Amen to that.

A Curtis fan writes:

and two amazing things about the concert -- my wife and i finally left because we both needed to get to work early this morning and it was 12:45 and these guys were STILL wailing... miller, cray, rick -- the amazing weird dude from the nightcats -- and others still playing HARD when we left... be interesting to know how long it went on and there was actually an after
party after the show... i know taj joined them on stage after we left, too... the unsung heroes were mike scanlon and the folks who are operating that building... they donated it, as i understand -- then let them play until the proverbial cows came home... paul allen's people would have NEVER done such a thing... i cannot remember an event in that building lasting that late (again -- how late? i have no idea... perhaps a poster will know)... one of the best things to happen musically in this town in ages -- and i'm sickie for concerts.

Apparently, they hit it and just wouldn't quit it.

My younger brother was there and said it went on until 1:30 AM.

I wish I could have been there - I've been a fan of Curtis for years, and definitely want to support him now. Since I couldn't make it, I donated a piece of jewelry for the silent auction (hope someone got it!) and am donating more through my website.

Sounds like it was a great concert!

That was a fantastic concert! I want to give a very special public shout out to Shane Tappendorf. Shane is Curtis' manager and he coordinated the planning and implementation of this amazing event!

Shane's never been one to ask for accolades (He's a consumate pro as is Curtis) but this successful event speaks volumes for Shane's behind the scenes work. Thanks, Shane!

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