The Norwalk Concert Hall is one of the venues under the Fairfield Theater Company’s umbrella. Along with the FTC- Stage One in Fairfield and the Klein Theater in Bridgeport, they are breaking ground on a fourth. They are obviously doing something right in the live music arena and Saturday night was another illustration of that as they brought the biggest Mac of them all to the stage for a spirited performance.
Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, came to Connecticut Saturday night after a sold out performance at Town Hall in New York the night before. The New York show included a horn section that accompanied the core band of Herlin Riley on Drums, Donald Ramsey on bass, Bobby Floyd on B3, and Trombonist/Musical Director Sarah Morrow on vocals.
Also appearing during the New York show was Vaneese Thomas, daughter of the legendary Sun and Stax recording star, Rufus Thomas. I had high hopes that we might see her at Norwalk and was thrilled to find her sitting in my row as I took my seat. Vaneese’s 2014 release Blues for my Father is a loving tribute and a fine recording that would shine even without her famous lineage.
The Doctor and the Nite Trippers checked in a bit after 8pm with “The Dr. Iz In” and checked our pulses with “Iko Iko” as we began our musical journey through a set that contained much loved songs that are part of fabric of New Orleans. “How Come My Dog” was a rare treat as I can’t remember hearing it live in previous shows. “I Walk On Gilded Splinters/Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” is one conglomeration that fans hope to hear as it so identifiable with the Shaman of Soul, and he did not disappoint. You may have heard these songs a thousand times, but when you’re in the theater as Dr. John hits the keys and Sarah Morrow blows the trombone, they become brand new again. Especially of note was the performance of “Let The Good Times Roll”. The song was played with a brand new, even more upbeat arrangement and it took a fantastic song to new heights. The good times kept rolling through the 2 hour plus show with some tunes from the band’s tribute to Louis Armstrong, Ske-Dat-De-Dat. Vaneese Thomas took the stage and sang Shemeika Copeland’s part on “Sweet Hunk O’Trash” then knocked “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” out of the park. While Sarah Morrow could have relied on her gorgeous looks to capture our attention, she assured us that she is more than a pretty face with trombone solos as hot as her thigh high boots. “Goodnight Irene” was what I assumed would conclude the show but was pleasantly surprised to find that the prescription called for four more tunes after that and instead wrapped with “Such a Night,” which it certainly was.
Other opportunities to catch this tour include their headlining engagement at Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Fest coming up May 31st in New Jersey. Any time that you find yourself in the audience for the good Doctor, you are most definitely in the right place at the right time……
– Alison Kaufman