Tangiers Blues Band

The Iridium / New York City, NY

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Photos by Arnie Goodman

The New York-based Tangiers Blues Band has entertained audiences for years with outstanding musicianship on rock and blues staples and deep cuts, all delivered with humor and good (but not-squeaky) clean fun. The challenge here is to have as much fun as the guys onstage.

With hard-driving, rockin’ blues at the core of their repertoire, the TBB draws material from a wide range of sources: Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, of course, but some of the highlight tunes of the night came from Buffalo Springfield (“Hello Mr. Soul”), the Beastie Boys (“(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)”), Prince (“Kiss”) and Lady (fer cryin’ out loud) Gaga (“I Want Your Love”). The band nailed them all, and then some.

The cast of characters shifts occasionally, but core members King (lead vocals, guitar), Eric Brown (drums), Chris Scianni (guitar) and Dave Sellar (bass) also usually includes Danny Clinch (harmonica, vocals) and Peter Levin (keyboards, absent this night). [Full disclosure, photographer Danny Clinch’s very famous images regularly appear on the pages of this magazine. See his piece on 60 Minutes here.]

A band this fun has many friends, and friends do love to sit in. This night we saw guitarist Cosmos Sunshine, flautist Maya Saeki, guitarist Mike Rae (from the opening act, the Mike Rae Trio) and Lenny Kravitz’ drummer Franklin Vanderbilt. Rae traded licks with the other two guitarists on the Merle Haggard classic, “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down,” which morphed into “Folsom Prison.” With Clinch’s harp as a train whistle and the friendly “show me what you got” going on among the guitarslingers, we heard the tune the way Johnny Cash never, ever, played it—although I’m betting, wherever he is, he wishes he had. Vanderbilt anchored a particularly rocking version of Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” and on the extended guitar solo on that one, even Clinch couldn’t resist playing air guitar.

The Iridium, long famous for its Les Paul residency and consistently excellent music, always draws a certain number of tourists from around the world: music lovers making a pilgrimage, not necessarily fans of the band playing on any given evening. Halfway through, even the tourists in the Iridium audience couldn’t sit still. Waiters who hear world-class music nightly danced at their stations while filling water glasses. Toward the end of the TBB’s 90-minute, 15- or 20-song set, the band launched into a memorable version of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime,” and even the very professional manager, Lisa, couldn’t keep it in, as she boogied through the club on her rounds.

-Suzanne Cadgène

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