John Sebastian

18 November 2013

Musical Instrument Museum Theatre, Scottsdale, AZ


If you haven't been to the Musical Instrument Museum, check it out some time. In the corrosion-resistant climate of Scottsdale, AZ, resides a two-story complex the size of a basketball arena, chock full of rooms representing musical culture from all corners of the planet. One particular section showcased autoharps, and featured a black/white video of this evening's performing artist strumming away.

I found the Lovin' Spoonful to be one of the most innovative pop music acts of the 1970s, merging folk, blues, and jug band music with Rock & Roll. John Sebastian was the driving force, as singer and songwriter.

John's voice is not what it used to be, and he has adapted with time to adopt a more bluesy sound. Blues songs, including the opening "Satisfied", dominated the set list, but John did good justice to his history by feature several Lovin' Spoonful songs, as well as his biggest solo hit.

In Storytellers fashion, John confessed that the opening riff to "Do You Believe In Magic" was inspired by the chord progression of "Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas. Tonight John performed this song, as well as the rest of the set, using one of two electric guitars--no autoharps.

The Spoonful had to follow up with another single, and the band formulated, "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice.", which John admitted had an eighth-note beat inspired by the Supremes.

He then pointed out that, in the course of just six months, the music industry, thanks largely to the Beatles, transformed its emphasis from singles to albums. During the recording of Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful, as John described, bassist Steve Boone goofing around with notes served as the inspiration for the lead-guitar-hook-bridge, that arguably gave the song "Summer In The City" the necessary strength to make it their only #1 single.  John also described how the lyrics were a beautiful clash of two polar-opposite perspectives of life in the city, as presented by John and his brother Mark.

John described how being asked to write "Welcome Back" was a natural for him, having grown up in Greenwich Village, easily relating to the cast of characters of the sitcom of the same name.

Sebastian also sang, "Did you ever have to make up your mind", "Daydream", and an encore of "Darling Be Home Soon". No "Rain On The Roof".

After a harmonica solo, John left the stage with a standing ovation.

[***] - Steven T.

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