There have been only a few times in my professional career that I have felt unworthy of the assignment I was been given. And, while yes, sometimes, that’s just my dreaded Impostor Syndrome creeping in, other times it’s just legitimate inadequacy. And last night at Red Butte, I realized that I was in no way qualified to critique either Keb’ Mo’ or the great Taj Mahal separately, let alone together in their new TajMo collaborative tour.
But yet, there I was.
And so, from the moment that Mahal came onto the stage in a Hawaiian print shirt and sunglasses and shaking maracas I started taking notes, hoping to cobble enough together for a review that was more of a play-by-play than a critique of the performance itself. But, to my delight as a concert-goer, and to my dismay as a hatcher-of-devious-plans, there was very little stage banter between the two bluesmen. Just a parade of beautiful guitars (and one banjo!) and a whole lot of music.
(And, while we’re on the subject of the music, for a couple of guys who are known as some of the best-in-the-blues, no one seemed to tell them how sad the blues are—because both men had a smile on their face the whole night long.)
Flanked by a band that included 2/3 of opening act Black Pacific as backup singers—the opener had the audience captivated during their set, and it wasn’t until later that we learned that the sibling act are Taj Mahal’s children—the blues greats ripped through a set including plenty from their new album, some reimagined classics like The Who’s “Mama’s a Squeezebox,” and The Rainmaker’s “Government Cheese” and some blues standards about hard headed women and the like.
The only complaint I have about the entire show came during the encore song “Soul” a catchy latin-beat tune that contains lyrics like, “Toronto, New Yorko” and at one point, even sites Aleppo, which, honestly, doesn’t seem like a real rocking place right now. Clearly this song is the “Kokomo” of the 21st century.
Forgiving that, the show was so seamless a blues purist might complain that it was in need of more grit. But, meanwhile, this unworthy music writer was just happy to be there to see it laid out there on the stage before her eyes.