MiG Music 2022
From Monterey into eternity: American veterans soldier on to defy mortality.
This is one of those collective’s whose legend has become much larger than their music and, despite the fact that they carry on stomping the stages, only cognoscenti can recall more than a few of their songs. And yet, the punters at the Bonn venue where CANNED HEAT arrived at in April 1998 clearly enjoyed the veterans’ act, as captured here on audio and video, and the absence of Bob Hite, the group’s primary focal point which died in 1981, doesn’t affect the spectators’ mood in any way. There’s no better testament to the ensemble’s resilience.
And the quartet serve it up. Garbed in red sweatshirt and washed-out overalls and brandishing a double-neck, corporeal singer Robert Lucas goes for the jugular from the onset. He offers the audience to let their hair down to the infectious fresh cut “Stranger” and rolls a slider in a filigree way across frets while guitarist Larry Taylor lays down a twangy riff, befitting a former four-stringer, to the rockabilly beat courtesy of Fito de la Parra, the last original member, before taking the lick-trading into “Bullfrog Blues” where the quartet’s pocket is deeper, the groove is vibrant and the belting is sexier. As a result, the frontman dances towards “On The Road Again” – that’s rendered vulnerable when delivered in the drummer’s reedy voice and oiled with the vocalist’s harmonica – and other perennials, the band peppering the set with surprising entries here and there.
Flurries of notes flying off “Don’t Know Where She Went (She Split)” on which lines are split between Taylor and bassist Greg Kage, and harp wails filling the air on the deliciously histrionic “See These Tears” which is nuanced nevertheless, the ensemble’s sound may seem somewhat sparse for the most of the concert, until they let “Goin’ Up the Country” evoke the spirit of Yasgur’s farm in patinated tones, if not entirely lacking the vigor of yore, especially on the creepy “Til The Money Runs Out” from Tom Waits’ repertoire, and on another new number, “Iron Horse” with its muscular shuffle. And, of course, there’s a roaring reading of “Let’s Work Together” to show the public that the veterans are still able to move mountains, Robert’s series of soaring solos getting the classic off the ground but keeping the piece concise – unlike “Woodstock Boogie” which will rock and roll for the whopping fifteen minutes, each of those gripping and giving every player a personal space for cosmic, Hendrix-quoting exposure, percussive extravaganza hitting the hardest in terns of emotions.
However, the encore of “Amphetamine Annie” doesn’t feel too funny now, after Lucas’ untimely passing from a drug overdose one decade after this performance; with Taylor’s death from cancer in 2019, another part of CANNED HEAT’s legend went down in history. And yet, 50-odd-years after they started, the band carry on.