03 March 2004
Paramount Theatre, Denver, CO
The earliest recollection I have of Michael McDonald was when he and the rest of the Doobie Brothers appeared on an episode of the SitCom "What's Happening!!" in the 1970s. Though me taking the opportunity to see him in concert is long overdue, this tour is perhaps the best one for me to catch up on this unfinished business. His current tour is promoting his album of Motown covers, called, appropriately, Motown.
I remember seeing McDonald on The Tonight Show in 1985, performing one of my favorites of his solo career, "No Looking Back (Now)"--I like the message, the feeling, and the tempo, of this song. Though he didn't perform this track at this evening's show, his setlist didn't disappoint me.
The show opened with Memphis bluesman Charlie Musselwhite. I really don't know anything about this guy. He looks a lot like blues singer/keyboardist Michael Finnigan, and during this opening set, shared the stage with an accompanying guitar player who reminded me of Darius Rucker, both because of his goutee', and his attire. Musselwhite's entire seven song set consisted of nothing but 12-bar blues selections.
The main act opened with the jazzy title track to the Doobies' triple-platinum Minute By Minute, and followed with one of three songs Marvin Gaye made famous over 30 years ago, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".
McDonald's setlist covered essentially all genres of his roughly 30-year recording career, including Doobie Brothers tracks, "It Keeps You Runnin" and "What A Fool Believes".
His tribute to Motown included two songs I've always really liked, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing". Though I will forever miss Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell, Michael very respectfully payed tribute to them with his versions.
I remember, about 30 years ago, when my brother and I used to make fun of a male group called the Stylistics. Well, McDonald's coverage of their "You Are Everything" actually sounded really good.
McDonald also covered two Stevie Wonder tunes.
Let's see, Micheal McDonald didn't forget "I Keep Forgettin'", performed a tune he co-wrote with Carly Simon, "You Belong To Me", and sang a song he duetted with James Ingram, "Ya Mo Be There".
What else? Oh yeah, one of my favorite songs of his, from the 1986 movie soundtrack Running Scared. This movie, starring Billy Crystal and the late Gregory Hines, featured McDonald's smash hit "Sweet Freedom".
Michael's triple encore included "Takin It To The Streets", and three songs with guest singer/guitarist Keb Mo (who just happened to be in town), including a cover of Booker T. Jones' "Ole Man Trouble".
I need to talk about Michael McDonald's perspiration. Tonight he wore a dark burgundy long-sleeve shirt, that, by the second song on the set, had several dark spots of sweat. By the end of the evening, he had the entire shirt soaked. Rather amazing, given that he sat on the same chair in front of his Yamaha keyboard the whole time--no walking, dancing, hand-waving. Thank goodness for rehydration.
The band backing up Michael McDonald was one incredibly tight, well-oiled machine, and very well suited for the R&B flavor he envisioned for this Motown tour. The influence of this sound even added interestingly funky twists to his older hits. Michael is definitely in a groove bigger and better than anything we've seen from him in over 15 years.
[****] - Steven T.
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