Friday, September 24, 2010
Jon Cleary : All By Himself
Of the dozen or so times I was able to catch Jon Cleary perform live, he was always accompanied by the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, his badass band that could play Meters' inspired funk and R&B so dirty, you'd need a Silkwood bath to feel like yourself again. So, last night's solo performance at one of New Orleans' most popular and most annoying venues, D.B.A., was a special occasion.
Starting promptly at 7PM, Jon Cleary went to work with a repertoire of old New Orleans' classics, starting with Professor Longhair's "Tipitina," and continuing with some faves such as "Lipstick Traces," "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights," as well as some truly inspired versions of standards that James Booker used to play on a regular basis, "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" and "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," to name but two.
The vibe was where it needed to be, and Cleary who has recently been playing in much bigger venues, touring with Bonnie Raitt and John Scofield, seemed to feel right at home in this tiny room. This makes sense since this is exactly how Cleary got started when first coming to New Orleans from the U.K., filling in for Booker at the Maple Leaf.
As usual, I am perplexed by the amount of people who need to speak...loudly...about things such as potato salad, airlines, their kids' school grades and a relative who has just been put into a nursing home, all while the performer, who they presumably came to hear, tries to drown THEM out. Admission was free, with Cleary playing for tips, yet I still don't see that as a reason to talk as if the performer was bothering you.
What makes this more than minor offense even more of a bloodboiler is that the venue is split in half, with one side set up for music and the other set up for drinking and socializing, replete with a big screen T.V., tuned to your favorite sporting event. You could just walk ten feet to your right and blab away to your heart's content if the music gets in your way.
Rarely, if ever, have I been in that room where the crowd respected the performer. John Boutte, the New Orleans treasure whose Saturday residency at D.B.A. is one of the clubs most popular events, is repeatedly saddled with this type of behavior. The difference is that John will tell you to shut up, while Cleary just played along.
People come from all over the world to the great city of New Orleans, specifically to see these artists. How difficult would it be to just keep quiet for an hour or so while they did their thing?