Dr. John at One World Theater, Sunday November 6th
by the MC
Mac Rebennack, also known as Dr. John The Night Tripper, plays a heady gumbo blend of blues, jazz, rock, funk, mysticism and zydeco. The Grammy award winner is one of the most unique voices to ever come out of the Crescent City and was finally inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame just this year. Mac heavily credits Louis Armstrong as an influence for helping him create good music. There are only two kinds of music, according to Mac, good and bad. Sunday night, the persona known as Dr. John showed up at One World Theater to play the good kind.
The lower 911 band, including David Barard on bass and John Fohl on guitar, strolls onto the stage. A new drummer replaces longtime band mate Herman “Roscoe” Ernest III, who passed away from cancer earlier this year. Mac steps out onto the stage looking like a pirate magician, adorned with hat, sunglasses and Mardi Gras beads. Mac sits down between the baby grand piano and Hammond organ positioned center stage, both decorated with voodoo skulls. The older West Austin crowd is a little contained in their enthusiasm and it will take a little while to warm them up. The band starts off the show with the syncopated groove of “Now That You Got Me” from 2001’s Creole Moon.
The good doctor rolls right into Duke Ellington’s “I’m Gonna Go Fishin'”. Then, Mac switches to the organ for the freaky “Black Widow Spider” from his second album Babylon. The song reminds one of a sexy Bourbon Street seductress that left with both your heart and your wallet. How evil can a woman can be? The band then cranks up the party with “Bruha Bembe”. Although the Creole lyrics are almost impossible to understand, the song’s mojo is like some dark bayou babe dancing you into a trance and then stealing your soul.
When Barard exhorts everyone to get on up for the re-fried confusion of “Right Place, Wrong Time”, you remember why Rebennack’s 1973 record In the Right Place was such a big hit. Everyone knows this one, and the audience chimes in on the suggestive lyric “If I don’t do it, somebody else will…”
People forget that Rebennack was originally a guitarist until he lost part of his left ring finger in a shooting. So when Mac picks up the guitar for “Mama Papa” everything gets real fine and greasy. Next, it’s back to the piano for “Mos ‘Scocious” as Mac sings about love and lust and asks a bodacious babe “Whatchya doin’ to me?”
Mac turns to the organ again for “Mama Roux” from his ground breaking first record Gris-Gris and the guys in the band sing backup like they are The Supremes. Wham bam, thank you m’am. The famous favorite “Such a Night,” also from In the Right Place, includes a rolling piano solo that proves Mac can really play the keys. The tune brings a standing ovation from the crowd.
The band does barrel house blues cover of “Keep on Going” by New Orleans cornetist Melvin Lastie, which is included on City That Care Forgot. The band then plays “Why Come” from 1998’s Anutha Zone. Yeah, yeah yeah… Mac gets up to do a little dance and lighting seems to strike the organ as the band pumps out “Holding Pattern” from Creole Moon to complete the spell.
The band rolls out a slow, bluesy version of the classic “When the Saints Go Marching In” and we all praise the lord as “Lay My Burden” brings out the glory hallelujah of a church revival. I was expecting St. James Infirmary or Iko Iko, but the closer is a poignant “So Long” from Afterglow. There are no encores and no goodbyes. Mac just slides out into the night. It might be best to see Dr. John in Tipitina’s with the booze flowing and people dancing until 2am, but this little tour brings the feel of the French Quarter to Austin, so that those of us stuck in Texas can pardi hardi like its Mardi.
I can’t wait to see the Night Tripper again. Dr. John’s latest record is titled Tribal. Go get it.