The blues are better in small spaces

Posted: Thursday, December 02, 2010

The blues - we hate when we have them, but love when we hear them. It's hard to have anything but admiration for a genre founded on making lemonade out of some really nasty lemons.

As a musician, my favorite way to experience the blues is from the inside, or at least from as close as I can get to it. If I'm not a part of the jam myself, I want to be as close to its leader as possible as I listen and watch. Blues is an all-inclusive style of music that best exists with no audience - that is, the audience becomes a part of the band, whether their contribution be singing along, tapping their foot or simply nodding their head to the tune. Anyone just sitting still and listening from a distance may be enjoying a good show, but they're missing out on the best part.

It's hard to get personal with blues musicians at a stadium show - hard, but not impossible. When an opportunity comes along to attend a performance in a more intimate venue, one shouldn't rather stay home to shampoo their hair.

So let your heads get greasy, Juneau, because John Lee Hooker Jr. is in town. If you weren't able to catch his performance at Centennial Hall, don't fret because we have the chance to get friendly with him over the next three nights at the Rendezvous. I've sampled Hooker's newest release, "Live In Istanbul Turkey," to get a taste of what we might be in for.

Hooker's talent isn't surprising, as he is the son of one of the legends of the blues, John Lee Hooker. While Jr. has certainly been influenced by his senior, it seems he has infused his own individuality into his music - and Jr. has good taste.

There's nothing worse than an album that is full of songs that are identical - the key of G is lovely the first time and alright the second, but by the third and beyond, our ears crave change. I've come across many blues recordings and performers who are oblivious to the joys of variety, but luckily Hooker is not one of them. Sure, many of his songs sound alike, but such is the way of the blues, and there is definitely enough change from track to track to keep my interest.

"Live In Istanbul Turkey" highlights Hooker's ability to draw in a crowd. He addresses his audience directly on numerous occasions, and encourages their participation. "Doin' The Boogie" is a fine example of this that sounds like fun to me, so if he doesn't play it at the concert, request it.

Catch Hooker at 8 p.m tonight and at 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Rendezvous. Tickets are available in advance and at the door. For details, contact Rendezvous owner Deb Barry at 321-6125.

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