Dr. John and the Lower 911 September 2, 2011 Minnesota State Fair Leinie Lodge Bandshell
On the first of two nights on the Leinie Lodge Bandshell stage at the Minnesota State Fair, Dr. John and his three-piece back-up band, the Lower 911, wasted no time getting the party going. Jumping right into the unmistakable New Orleans rhythm of "Now You Got Me" from their 2001 Creole Moon, the good doctor strutted out to great cheers from eager fans who were ready to get down as the sun set on a wonderful evening out at the Fair.[jump]
At age 70, the living legend Dr. John may show his age a bit, but once he sat down with his piano on one side and a Hammond organ on the other, he immediately came to life and electrified the crowd. With a relentless stream of hits from his career as a musician, producer, and ultimately the reigning king of the New Orleans sound for 50-plus years, his rock-solid band carried him through a magnificent set.
Working things at a steady pace from the get go, Dr. John warmed things up with a traditional New Orleans vibe that swelled into some of his most famous funk gems like "Mama Roux" and "Right Place, Wrong Time." It took some time for the Minnesota nice crowd to get going, but eventually people went from sitting on the comfy benches of the Leinie Lodge and busted things out into an all-out dance party.
Taking a break from the piano, Dr. John picked up a guitar and had his way with that instrument for a rendition of "Let the Good Time Roll." As the band chugged on, Dr. John surprised the crowd by taking some sweet leads before returning back to the piano and organ, the instruments he is most known for as his expertise.
Eventually things were brought down to a simmer for some old school blues that highlighted guitarist Reynard Poché. With a rhythm section of bassist David Barard and drummer Herman "Roscoe" Ernest III keeping things in a steady groove, the band often branched out into extended jams, leaving space for Dr. John to give the organ a workout.
While he didn't say much the whole night, the times he did address the crowd his words carried a heavy weight.
"Did you know that in America there are more prisons than any other country in the world?" he asked the crowd. Making room for contemplation, the band moved things along with sobering rendition of "Only in America" from the band's 2010 release, Tribal.
Eventually the crowd energy had reached a fever pitch and fans rushed the stage for the last couple songs of the night. Security guards didn't seem to know what to do, glancing at one another and letting the party carry on.
While the State Fair tends to mix the excesses and traditions of Minnesota culture for a wide mix of people from all over the state and country, it was Dr. John who made the party really happen on this wonderful night. All that were there will remember the performance as one of the real highlights of not just the Fair this year, but of the summer as a whole. Dr. John was the perfect host for the last weekend at the great Minnesota get together.
Critic's Bias: Pretty awesome that you can be at the Fair and just walk up and there's Dr. John playing. The Crowd: All ages, colors and shapes very enthusiastic about seeing the legendary piano man. Oh, and many noodle dancers. Overheard in the Crowd: "Wait, that's the guy that sang the theme song to 'Blossom' isn't it?!" Random Notebook Dump: Never knew Dr. John could shred on the ol' six string. For More Photos: See our full slideshow by Steve Cohen.
Setlist: Now That You Got Me Fish Fry Mama Roux I walk on Guilded Splinters Right Place, Wrong Time Let the Good Times Roll How Come My Dogs Don't Bark Love For Sale Food for Thot Junko Partner Change of Heart Qualified Candy Only In America My People Need a Second Line Lay My Burden Down Such a Night
"Like" Gimme Noise on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @gimme_noise.