By Michael Lello
ARDMORE, Pa. – After just a few whacks of the drums by “Mean” Willie Green, it was obvious that last Thursday night’s show at the Ardmore Music Hall– which had started off just fine with a well-received but reserved performance by Little Feat’s Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett – was going to turn into a dance party. The irresistible rhythms of the New Orleans Suspects, a band whose resume is as deep as the funk it laid down in the Philadelphia suburb, overcame the crowd, most of whom were there to see their Feat heroes but left buzzing just as much about another band.
The Suspects – Neville Brothers drummer Green, Radiators bassist Reggie Scanlan, former Dirty Dozen Brass Band guitarist Jake Eckert, Outformation organist (and Paoli native) C.R. Gruver and James Brown saxophonist Jeff Watkins – bubbled through Crescent City classics like Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina” and songs from their upcoming album “OUROBOROS.”
Barrere and Tackett then joined the Suspects for the red-hot remainder of the show, including fun Feat standby “Sailin’ Shoes,” which featured a ridiculously funky drums-and-clavinet jam, and a double shot of Robert Palmer’s “Hey Julia” and “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley.” Tackett, who switched from trumpet to electric guitar during this portion of the show, sang lead on “Honest Man,” before Barrere resumed those duties on Feat’s “Old Folks Boogie.” During an instrumental passage, Scanlan played the same simple bass riff over and over, holding the song structure together, along with Green, as the other musicians improvised wildly, including guitar solos by Barrere, Eckert and Tackett. Tackett’s trumpet introduction set up “Dixie Chicken,” before an encore of The Meters’ classic “Hey Pocky Way.”
Barrere and Tackett, who essentially opened for themselves, began the evening with a conversational and occasionally ragged but right collection of tunes, with Barrere almost exclusively playing slide on his Stratocaster, and Tackett playing mandolin in addition to his Strat. They opened with “Ain’t Had Enough Fun” and delivered fun takes on “Rocket In My Pocket” and “Willin,” with Tackett’s high harmony vocals adding a distinct flavor. The duo also tackled The Band’s “The Weight” and closed their segment with “Candyman Blues,” the Mississippi John Hurt tune that opens Little Feat’s most recent album, “Rooster Rag.”
Pairing the Suspects with Barrere and Tackett was a brilliant idea that has led to fun, funky and seamless sets, and it’s an idea that hopefully gets more mileage in the near future.