Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann
Dr. John & The Lower 911 :: 09.02.10 :: Santa Monica Pier :: Santa Monica, CA
New Orleans musical legend Dr. John played a versatile closing night set for the 2010 Twilight Dance Series 2010. The free concerts took place every Thursday on Santa Monica Pier throughout the summer. A swarm of music fans of all ages crowded the pier and the beach below for the final show of the season. The funky musical genie didn't disappoint, offering jazzy renditions of some of his most well known songs that lent themselves well to a dance ready audience.
Dr. John burst into the rock world in the late 60s as the ambassador of the New Orleans sound to mainstream pop culture. Known at the time as 'Dr John, The Night Tripper,' his debut album, released in 1968, established him as a pop icon. Combining traditional New Orleans music with psychedelic rock, the album featured songs such as "I Walk on Guilded Splinters" that created a whole new musical genre and inspired musicians and fans alike. His original music and live performances were steeped in a mystical stew of voodoo and experimental sounds that established him as sort of a white version of blues master Screamin Jay Hawkins. In fact, several (what appeared to be genuine) human skulls graced the stage Thursday night!
By the 1970s, Dr. John had dropped 'The Night Tripper' moniker and evolved his music into a more funk-based sound. This era produced his biggest pop hit, "In The Right Place." Always continuing to reinvent himself over his four decades of music making, he has collaborated with countless pop, rock, blues and jazz legends. A master keyboard player, one of his piano tunes Thursday night was even reminiscent of Joe Jackson's foray into samba music. On another new jazzy tune, he sang about his commitment to preserving the wetlands in New Orleans and urged the crowd to get involved in saving the region's traditional way of life.
By the time the 10 pm curfew literally forced the feisty musician off the stage, he had performed over two hours of music - singing, dancing, playing multiple keyboards and guitar. Long live, Dr John, The Night Tripper, and bravo for free concerts on the Santa Monica Pier.
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