February 17, 2016 Eric Burdon & The Animals Invade The Paramount Huntington, NY 2-6-16 w/ Randy Jackson
Ranked 57th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, English Singer-Songwriter Eric Burdon is truly an original. Widely recognized as the vocalist of legendary Rock band The Animals, and later Funk Rock band War, Burdon has quite an amazing story to tell. Leading The Animals at the forefront of the British Invasion, the band are noted for some of the most gritty Rock tracks of the time, ones which still stand strong five decades later. Through some creative differences, Burdon has kept The Animals’ name alive through the years, with a variety of different lineups, and his distinctive voice is what still takes listeners back to the golden age of British Rock. In addition, he has had quite a solo career as well, including the extremely well-received ‘Til Your River Runs Dry in 2013, which reminded fans Burdon can still strike a chord in a modern Rock world. Now in 2016, Burdon and the current incarnation of The Animals are on the road again for select shows in the USA. A continuation of a run that began in 2015, a postponed show from December 4th at The Paramount in Huntington, New York came around for an anticipated re-scheduled performance on Saturday, February 6th. With support from local Rock hero, Zebra’s Randy Jackson, the night was prime for some Blues and Soul-filled Rock-n-Roll.
Born in New Orleans, Jackson, and his band, Zebra, broke out in the early ’80s behind constant touring in the Northeast, particularly the Rock clubs of Long Island. Since that time, he has been a fixture on the Long Island Rock scene, performing at a variety of events each year. Always a humble and delightful musician, Jackson took the stage of The Paramount to a warm welcome as he rightfully deserved.
Giving a nice mix of tunes, highlights from Jackson’s set included “Take Your Fingers From My Hair,” “Tell Me What You Want,” and “Who’s Behind the Door?” “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” began with intricate acoustic guitar riffing and atmospheric effects on keys before taking off into an all-out rocker with snarling vocals before returning to a quiet calm, and then breaking into an electric guitar-laden outro. “Tell Me What You Want,” which has become part of the classic Rock canon, was heavy on classic Rock licks and powerful vocals. Zebra’s magnum opus, “Who’s Behind the Door,” closed the set. Featuring a borderline Country intro on acoustic guitar, Jackson sang softly over his delicate strumming before escalating the song into a wild cacophony of swirling effects, brash guitars, and siren-like vocals. For a show steeped in ’80s vibes, but absent pretense, and full of chops, Randy Jackson is always a safe bet.
Following a brief intermission, the crowd settled in waiting for Burdon and his band of Percussionist Wally Ingram (Sheryl Crow, Jackson Browne), Guitarist Billy Watts, Drummer Tony Braunagel (Record Producer), Bassist Terry Wilson, and Organist/Keyboardist Red Young to take the stage. With an all-star line-up of accomplished musicians arriving on the platform, Burdon immediately joined and they opened the set with “Spill the Wine.” The hit track for Burdon and War featured a quirky lead on keys and laid the basis for a Psychedelic masterpiece. A steady groove with near spoken lyrics, detailing a wild adventure, had the crowd shouting the chorus, drowning Burdon out as the band extended the song well beyond its studio version for a vivacious jam. Blending Surf Rock and Rhythm and Blues, “Don’t Bring Me Down” came in with its joyful, sharp keys and fuzzed out riffs on guitar, the perfect representation of the British Invasion. It was another deeply catchy chorus that had the crowd singing along.
Moving along, the band went into 1967’s “When I Was Young,” which brought forth Middle Eastern flair, musically, to go along with lamentable lyrics. While most songs look back on youth fondly, here, the reflection is one of sadness and regret; “When I was young….pain more painful…..and times were very hard…..” Coupled with the down-tuned sound of the music, it made for a very unique, and melancholy song. Then there was the unforgettable “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Originally recorded by Nina Simone, the song would historically become one of The Animals’ biggest hits. While the original was a slow, meandering number, The Animals took it as a firebrand number steeped in roadhouse sensibilities and Pop perfection. On the stage of The Paramount, a bending lead on keys set the tone for the song as Burdon sang over it with menace.
Heavily influenced by Bo Diddley, Burdon, on his 2013 solo effort, ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, recorded “Bo Diddley Special.” On this night, Burdon and the band would make it an extended jam. Featuring, of course, a signature Diddley beat, the song screamed fun as Burdon, paying tribute, appeared to be having the time of his life as he prowled the stage, and tempered the band’s ferocity with mellowed out vocals. Then, a Diddley cover of “Before You Accuse Me” followed, leaving no doubt as to who had the biggest influence on Burdon. A classic Blues number that has been covered by Eric Clapton, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Lonnie Mack, among others, Burdon’s rendition was tastefully done with wailing Blues guitar and expertly delivered vocals.
Keeping the set lively, “27 Forever,” also from ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, was placed perfectly in the course of the performance. After the scorching Blues prior, it was a beautiful mid-tempo number with slinky guitar, gentle horns, and gentle vocals. Burdon and the band were able to take a much deserved break whilst delivering an intricate number high on craftsmanship. Getting back to the well-known hits, “The House of the Rising Sun” was next. The guitar intro, familiar to anyone who has ever listened to the radio in the last 50 years brought a roar from the crowd. The dark keys, juxtaposed with the twangy guitar and pounding drums allowed Burdon’s powerful, wailing and moaning vocals to take center stage as he took the crowd back to 1964 and the height of the British Invasion.
Set closer “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” allowed the crowd to revel in yet another smash hit from the era. Again, a wild blend of Surf Rock, Blues, and Pop made for the night’s biggest sing-along. The crowd screamed, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” before belting out the chorus. At the height of excitement, it appears the show was over. Thankfully, after a brief exit, the band returned to the stage for a three song encore. It all began with classic teen angst anthem “It’s My Life.” Taking the Pop sensibilities of The Beatles, and turning them on their ear, alongside bright guitars and a steady beat were dark lyrics telling the tale of a young man threatening to be an absolute menace to society, with no regrets, all while declaring he is unstoppable. Net was “I’m Crying,” a Blues-based number with a classic riff and hostile vocals. It was a powerful performance as Burdon and the band practically bled on stage, and the pain was palpable. Clearly influenced by the Blues more so than any other genre, it was fitting that a cover of a John Lee Hooker classic, “Boom Boom,” would close the show. Honky-Tonk piano, sizzling Blues guitar, and downright berserk vocals made for a nearly ten minute party to close the show. Clearly saving their best for last, Eric Burdon and The Animals delivered an awe inspiring rendition of an all-time Blues classic to end the night.
Despite the fact that he is closing in on seventy-five, Eric Burdon delivers a live show with energy to spare. Steeped in the Blues, with timely placed inflections of Pop, Funk, Surf, as well as Rock, Eric Burdon and The Animals, for over fifty years, always deliver the goods. While most bands of the ’60s era were singing about holding hands, unrequited love, and sunshine, Burdon and The Animals were telling dirty, realistic tales of life in the streets of rough and tumble England. That still resonates today and is exactly why all Rock appreciators should get out there and see Burdon live.