Three Dog Night

2 August 2002

Columbian Grandstand, Vancouver, WA


Highly recommended reading: Three Dog Nightmare, the autobiography of Chuck Negron. When I read David Crosby's autobiography, Long Time Gone, I thought that nobody could possibly screw up his life in more ways or with more intensity, until I read Brian Wilson's autobiography, Wouldn't It Be Nice. And then I thought, okay, I've digested what the bottom is all about. Maybe not. Negron gives both of the above a run for the money.

Chuck, along with Danny Hutton and Cory Wells, was one of the original three Dogs, but, due to a serious addiction to heroin, and the financial, marital, and professional woes that often accompany such a vice, Danny and Cory kicked Chuck out of the band in the 1980s. A few years later, Chuck successfully kicked his habit, but by that time he had effectively exhausted his excuses and breaks from his patient friends and colleagues. Read the book. But, long story short, Chuck is touring as a solo artist. Thus, this evening I essentially enjoyed a Two Dog Night performance.

Nevertheless the band put on a full, entertaining show for the crowd of approximately 9,000, mostly from an era prior to the baby boom. Danny, dressed in black polyester, initiated the vocal performance with his first verse of "Family Of Man" amidst serious feedback problems. Danny would spend practically the rest of the evening distracting front row patrons by sticking his hand inside his leather jacket to incessantly adjust his wireless monitor, and also by repeatedly motioning to a monitor technician to adjust sound levels. Throughout the evening, Danny's eyebrows would rise and fall, almost as if he were sighing from having performed these same songs over and over for 30 years.

Cory stood to Danny's left, looking like he had just gotten off of his Harley, donning sunglasses for most of the show, even after sunset, taking them off only for the encore, as if removing them was some kind of treat for the audience, a la Michael Jackson at the Grammys in the 1980s. Cory handled lead chops on "Mama Told Me Not To Come". Cory's biker motif also included full leather, and what could have fooled everyone for a keychain--a cable from his wireless device.

Leaving few favorites unplayed, TDN matched a carnival atmosphere with "The Show Must Go On". During the 90 minute set, Danny mentioned how the band had recorded an album on Abbey Road, and subsequently let Cory take lead vocals for a song from that album. After playing a few bars of the John/Paul composition "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", Danny stopped the planned humor and redirected Cory to "Never Been To Spain".

"Shambala" opened with Michael Allsup's trademark acoustic lead-in, and "One" began with Jimmy Greenspoon's dual-note rhythmic piano riff.

"One" live, of course, is missing the trademark lead vocals of Chuck Negron. TDN showed a lot of courage by singing several of their hits that had featured Chuck as the primary vocalist, including "Joy To The World" and "Easy To Be Hard". Neither Danny nor Cory even attempted the beautiful "Pieces Of April".

Danny Hutton recorded his vocals on the studio version of "Liar" from a remote bathroom lined with highly echoic tile. The live version, without the echo, couldn't match what first appeared on vinyl in the 1970s.

The decent-sized setlist also included "One Man Band", "Black And White", "Old Fashioned Love Song", "Sault Ste. Marie", and my two favorites, "Out In The Country" and "Celebrate". Cory didn't perform the Otis Redding classic "Try A Little Tenderness".

Good show. Glad I made time to see this act at least once in the last 33 years.

[***] - Steven T.

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