The Guess Who

20 August 2001

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO


Whether you're a first time patron, or if it's been 4+ years since you last visited, the beauty of Red Rocks Amphitheatre is truly stunning. Tonight the weather was perfect overhead, and the view from row 37 was spectacular. Over the Denver skyline, the audience saw dozens of lightening strikes on the Eastern Slope of the mile high city. An absolutely beautiful night. I'll be back.

The show had two artists that could each qualify as headliners. At 7:40 P.M., an emcee proudly welcomed Joe Cocker front and center. I'll never forget the first time I saw video footage of his famous Woodstock performance. Since 1969, though his appearance has changed, his voice and mannerisms have not. It took mere seconds before his trademark arm spasms led the way, almost as if he were conducting an orchestra. Scratch that--not "almost".

He directed his five-piece backing band into a brisk "Feelin' Alright", written by Dave Mason. Dave Mason is a great songwriter, I've seen Dave twice in concert, but Dave's version doesn't compete with Joe's.

After three songs I didn't recognize, the Mad Englishman performed nine that I did recognize. "You Are So Beautiful" was impressive. He duetted with a vocalist named Maxine on "Up Where We Belong". Maxine is no Jennifer Warnes, but that's okay. Next, "Cry Me A River", and "The Letter", arranged much more dramatically than the Box Tops earlier version. "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" was one of two Beatles covers tonight.

He showcased some later hits, notably, "You Can Leave Your Hat On", "Unchain My Heart", and my personal favorite, the 1990 track, "When The Night Comes", complete with his authentic primal screaming.

I'll always be impressed with how Joe can turn the seemingly happy, bubbly Beatles song, "With A Little Help From My Friends" into a song filled with sad, hyperemotional, emphatic, almost desperate passion, the way he does. Nobody, but nobody can match that.

And now, the second headliner. Whenever I see an "oldies" band, I try to make sure that I'll be witnessing an honest-to-goodness reunion of real members of the band. Prior to tonight, I had waited over a decade to see the original Guess Who reunite for a Northern America tour. Tonight, Cummings, Bachman, Kale, and Peterson, and an unnamed additional guitarist walked in formation out to a sparsely-set stage and a large ovation.

Unpretentiously, they opened with a moderate selection of songs they recorded before they hit the big time in 1969, including "Shakin' All Over". Then, Burton Cummings introduced the next song as "as song Randy and I wrote a few days ago", right before the unmistakable electric piano intro to "These Eyes".

The Guess Who were generous enough to let lead guitarist Randy Bachman perform four songs from, as Cummings described it, "the other band", Bachman-Turner-Overdrive. These were the jazzy "Lookin' Out For #1", a surprisingly pleasant, acoustic "Let It Ride", "Takin' Care Of Business", and the hands-down show stealer, "Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet". Burton Cummings was very generous in his praise of Randy as a songwriter.

"Undun" was one of several songs they performed sitting in chairs, acoustically. What has always impressed me about many 1960s groups has been their respective abilities to merge different musical styles into rock and roll. Randy Bachman emerged as one of the true geniuses of the decade, with his strong jazz underpinnings.

"Clap For The Wolfman" was loose and bluesy, as were "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature", and "Guns Guns Guns".

"American Woman" included lyrics different from the original version, and good-hearted, almost humorous solos by Randy Bachman. Randy even enlisted a drumstick as a slide bar, as he grinned widely across his husky, almost bearlike frame.

Burton belted out "Hand Me Down World", and my personal favorite, "Laughing" with energy and projection. Dressed in a black-and-orange rugby shirt, still wearing a thick, black mustache, the lead singer's voice was noticably different from that of three decades ago--more nasaly, but still likeable.

Next came "Bus Rider", with plaintive lyrics, "I'm so awful goddamned glad I'm not in your shoes!", and "Workshop Owner".

"No Time" had the very best harmonies of the night. Very sweet.

"Share The Land" served as the obligatory encore.

I missed out on a lot by not being born earlier than I was, but I'm catching up, one bit at a time.

[****] - Steven T.

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