Foghat in concert February 26, 2004

With special guests Cooperblack and Bluefish!

3 stars... much much more for the HAT themselves!

You know the Rhythm is Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

J.C. Mašek III... KLAZZIQUE Critic!!!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Last night I got to check out one of the greats of the Heavy Blues Rock. I'll give you a hint, it's not Humble Pie, it's not Aerosmith, it's not Johnny Winter either, yep, last night I scored tix to see Foghat Live at the Coachhouse Concert Theatre in beautiful and historic San Juan Capistrano (you know... where the Swallows return to?)! I brought with me my buddy Mike, master of Sarcasm and the biggest fan of "the 'Hat" I've ever known. (Note, Frank Harvey couldn't make it, nor was he invited, really).

The good news is that in spite of the death of their original lead singer "Lonesome Dave", Foghat sounds as great as ever and are as sonic and cacophonous as ever, and (in spite of their years) are both passionate and proficient at what they do. The bad news here is... well, they followed two opening bands that weren't exactly, er... touched by the Hand of God.

There's nothing inherently wrong with opening act Bluefish. It's just that they weren't quite... right! Bluefish comes from (or dropped out of) the school of Rock that used to claim that this is the kind of music they'd be playing forever, I'll be playing this music forever, this music will always be popular. Well, two out of three ain't bad! Bluefish is playing the sort of predictable big, dumb arena-inspired rock that Skid Row and Steelheart inherited from bands like Kiss and Van Halen, with just enough rolling, sustained keyboards to let you know that they also listened to Yes and Journey a lot while "honing their skills!"

While each band member was technically proficient enough with their instruments, the culmination of the four piece wasn't a cohesive "good time" that they seemed to feel it was. Essentially Bluefish was more of a frolic through the late 1980's Hairspray band scene evoking memories of Ratt, Dokken, and just a peppering here and there of Queensryche without quite the quality of these bands. As they took the stage, I mentioned to Mike that any time you see a musician carry on one of those Strapped Keyboards and plays it like a guitar, that's never a good sign. Before Mike got up and left to avoid the rest of the show I was stunned into the realization that the current number they were ganging up on and violating was actually "Ramblin'" by Led Zep! Look, if it takes me a full sixty seconds to recognize a Led Zeppelin song... you're not playing it right!

Somehow the Lead singer's macho posturing, I-love-the-ladies lyrics, fist pumping and chord pointing just didn't look quite as cool with a buzz-cut and black jeans as they must have in 1987 with a Mullet and Spandex. Again, though there's nothing truly bad about this band (though they did tend to be a little unintentionally funny from time to time). The lead guitar was undistorted and crystal clear, and the rhythm section (a Bass Player looking for all the world like Drew Carey in his "The Horn Dogs" period and a drummer who looks like he works at area "head shops") was on target. The Lead Singer's keyboards were somewhat exciting for certain songs, but got in the way for others, while his voice ranged from tough-guy Gene Simmons to Steelheart screeches. It's easy to imagine this guy imitating Geoff Tate.

Like I said, there's nothing inherently wrong with this band but the thing is, there's nothing inherently wrong with the tweed sport coat in predominantly light yellow and green plaid design either, but it's had its time, and that time has past. You might like them if you ever said the words "Damn it! Why did Trixter have to break up? I hate my life!" You might want to avoid them if you came to see Foghat. Now, before I get hate mail about this review, I think there's something to be said for the fact that these guys are getting out there and jamming every night, and I'm only writing about it! One last thing: There is nothing else in this world quite like a "power ballad!" Thank God, thank GOD there is nothing else in this world quite like a "power ballad!" YY

Cooperblack, the night's second act, was a step above Bluefish in musicianship and cohesiveness, but was still a bit rough around the edges (and not in a "Foghat" or "Grand Funk Railroad" sort of way). This four piece gave the feel of a group of cool guys who grew up listening to the Arena Rock of the 1970's and the pretenders to that throne and decided to become that sort of band as a career. And while Cooperblack does show some skill by taking on the amalgam of the numerous 1970's hard rock bands, one can't help but find them a bit lacking in personal identity. In that respect they resemble the fictional rock band Stillwater from Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous right down to their un-tucked western shirts, bell bottomed jeans and throwback jackets.

Cooperblack also threw in a little of the post-grunge nihilism and grinding riffs that their (and my) generation made their own (along with a little L.A. Guns sprinkled in somehow). However, that aside, these guys give the impression of a full cover-band combining what they deem to be the best elements of the best bands of the seventies and their imitators. The difference, of course, is that Cooperblack's songs aren't covers! It was fun to see a band so rooted in the seventies image and sound without bringing with them some of the negatives of that Rock-Era (as Bluefish did with their respective era echoes). As fun as the group was to see and hear, and as much fun as they were having being seen and heard, they just didn't have any originality in their originals or uniqueness in their music. If a cover-free seventies amalgam is what you're in the mood for, then shoot for Cooperblack! Good band, but lacking in their own identity. Picture a Cover band you can't sing along with! YYY

The Current Louder-than-hell Lineup! (Not Pictured: The Ghost of Dave Peverett)
Dude, FOGHAT, man! The Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat! It was hard to imagine the down and dirty blues rock that these guys helped to make a classic rock staple booming with the historical sonic intensity coming out of some old guys. Let me tell you though, Grandpa can ROCK!

Foghat was louder than loud without overpowering their sludgy notes with simple noise, which is what one would want. Anything less would be like hearing Frampton and Marriott-era Humble Pie emanating as Muzak from an Elevator rather than Rock from the Fillmore!

The first striking thing about Foghat is that even without Lead Singer/ Guitarist Dave Peverett, the band still sounds for all intents and purposes like Classic Foghat! Former Humble Pie (latter day Humble Pie, mind you), Ted Nugent and Victory lead singer/ guitarist Charlie Huhn takes over here and sounds quite surprisingly like a young Peverett. The band seems to think he'd make old Dave proud. I'd agree! His voice on such classics as "Drivin' Wheel," "Fool for the City," "Stone Blue," and (of course) "Slow Ride" more than proved that Foghat still can rock!

Bryan Bassett (of Molly Hatchet) is another "non-original member," however his Pickin' and Slidin' is incredible whether on Six String Gibson or Fender Telecaster. Price's Riffs are well handled by Bassett, who seems to be having more fun than Jennifer Grey at a Dirty Dancing convention while he's jamming with the boys.

Original members (veterans of Savoy Brown, natch) Roger Earl (Drums) and Tony Stevens (Bass Guitar) seemed comfortable and well-rooted in the music they've been playing for three decades. Each is given a tastefully brief, yet classically 1970's solo to prove even further that they still have it.

Much more than the Men on stage was the Music itself. Both the Uncle Joe old-stuff and the new cuts from Foghat's latest were dead-on. While essentially Huhn aimed to give the audience the best Lonesome Dave Peverett that he could, his own personality took over in his audience asides, as well as the silent-whisper of (Willie Dixon's) "I just Want to Make Love to You!" The band lets this song slowly and silently thunder onstage before absolutely ripping into it the way they did when they made the song all their own. The song's been covered a hundred times, but Foghat's version is definitive, especially live. During both "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and Foghat's heavy-blues version of Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago" the band shared vocal duties with the crowd, keeping them pumped up until the 11 O'clock hour.

On the subject of their new material... pretty much everyone was there for the classics only, however, the band snuck in both "Mumbo Jumbo" and "Self Medicated" into the set from their latest release Family Joules. Hardly any of the 1970's heroes new music sounds worth a penny as compared to the hey-day, however, both of these songs fit perfectly into the set. Like Steely Dan's new Material, Foghat's proves that they can still evolve as a band, put out new material and have it sound like the vintage of the pick. If you get on a Foghat kick, do not miss this record!

It was "Slow Ride" that closed the show, appropriately because that's what so much of the crowd was chanting for. "Slow Ride" sounded pretty close to the Single Version with just a bit of the old "Audience Participation" thrown in! It was merely the Tip of the Iceberg, though as the entire evening proved that the boys have still got it. The odds against them as they might have been, I was thrilled to note that Foghat not only met, but exceeded my expectations for a live show. They may not have been surrounded by an "arena" last night, but you'd be hard pressed to explain that to any one of them. They cared and gave it their all! YYYY

It's a shame to have to give only Three Stars out of Five to last night's show. While Foghat themselves were worthy of Four Stars, the evening on the whole was a mixed bag. Ironically, it was comparatively younger bands like Bluefish and Cooperblack who were (for better or worse) living in the Past. Foghat transcends the "classic" that goes before their Rock, and they still do rock no matter what year this is! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go see if I can fill Huhn's place in Humble Pie. When next you hear from me, I'll be singing "I Don't Need no Doctor" at the Fillmore.

Or... maybe not.

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Foghat in Concert 2.26.4 Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his opinions and for the fact that he doesn't want you to be a slave, he doesn't want you to work all day, he doesn't want you to be true! He just wants to make... Love to you... Love to you!
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