Sunday, April 05, 2015

Brilliant Dion stars at Las Vegas car show

It's hard to find words to describe how good Dion was when he appeared at the Viva Las Vegas car show yesterday. The Wanderer showed that his voice is as strong as ever and that he can hold an audience in the palm of his hands. Dressed all in black with his trademark back to front cap, he was quite brilliant on a selection of his own songs with a few rock and roll numbers thrown in.
He began with I Got My Eyes On You Baby, first recorded as recently as 2007, but quickly gave the doowop loving crowd what they wanted with faultless renditions of Donna The Prima Donna, Love Came To Me and Ruby Baby. He rocked a bit with Rave On and Summertime Blues and delved into the excellent Yo Frankie album with Always In The Rain and, later, a tough sounding King Of The New York Street. He turned back time to 1958 with great versions of A Teenager In Love and I Wonder Why with the first rate backing band serving brilliantly as latter day Belmonts. After Shake Rattle And Roll, he went acoustic with a slightly dodgy Calendar Girl - learned sitting on a piano stool with Neil Sedaka, he said - and continued with the anthemic Abraham Martin And John. Next was another Drifters cover with Drip Drop and Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Rock And Roller before finishing with his two most biggest hits Runaround Sue and The Wanderer to rapturous applause from the huge crowd. There's no doubt that Dion is one of the true greats of rock and pop and that at 75 he remains as good as ever. This was truly a spine tingling moment.
Dion was followed on stage on this great day of live music with more sixties sounds from one of the earliest garage bands The Sonics. Dressed like bank managers they tore the place up and shredded the eardrums with early hits like Psycho, Strychnine and The Witch, along with other garage classics such as Have Love Will Travel, Keep A Knocking, Money and Louie Louie, the anthem of their native north west, they said. They also gave debut performances of tracks from their new album This Is The Sonics including Bad Betty and Sugaree. It's hard to imagine this group of ageing guys creating shock waves with dirty grungy music, but somehow they do. It's loud, it's raw and it's definitely garage.
Earlier at the car show we had the VLV debut of British family band Kitty Daisy and Lewis. This was the first time I've seen them live and I couldn't fail to be impressed by their multiple instrumental talent on guitar, drums, keyboard and harmonica. Their music incorporates rockabilly, Americana, pop , even ska, with the addition of Jamaican trumpet player Eddie Tan Tan Thorton on several numbers. All highly professional, but just a little too varied to appeal 100 percent and I found my attention was wavering at times. Good fun though and clearly a trio with real talent.
Back in the Orleans Hotel the festival continued with a trio of ageing original rockabilly artists introduced by Big Sandy, who did a tribute to some of the rock and roll artists who have passed on in recent years, including Billy Lee Riley, Janis Martin and  Mac Curtis. First on was Huelyn Duvall, who made a good stab at early recordings such as Teen Queen, It's No Wonder, Pucker Paint and Three Months To Kill, despite a rather weak voice. Better was the next act Ray Campi with his white stand up bass who was clearly enjoying himself on numbers such as Eager Boy, How Low Can You Feel, Rockabilly Man and Rockin At The Ritz. Pianist Rip masters performed one number and Ronnie Weisser, the man who rediscovered Ray in the 70s, was in the audience. Final act of this segment was Louisiana born Joe Clay, who leaped around the stage and into the audience like a man half his age. Numbers included his best known ones Don't Mess With My Ducktail and16 Chicks and he also did a swamp pop number called Don't Know What To Do, which he apparently recorded under the name of Russ Wayne.
Overall day 3 of VLV was excellent, if more than a little tiring, and I shouldn't end without mentioning the Bop Hounds, a gloomy but impressive Brazilian band, Jake Calypso, a rather weird Cajun rockabilly, and the Hot Roddin' Rodeos, a very loud but proficient rockabilly band.


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