Dateline: October 31st 2012. 4.45am alarm call. Car to London, Gatwick airport. Plane to Amsterdam. Train to Nijmegen. Bus to Ottersum.
Jimmy LaFave and Band – Roepean Podium, Ottersum.
I often wonder if musicians really appreciate the friendships they foster through a shared love of their music. Here I am travelling from the UK to Holland to meet up with Dutch and American friends. Seven of us are going to all five Jimmy LaFave shows on one of his infrequent tours outside America. The first show in the Roepean Podium, a chapel in this former monastery, is a beautiful setting. The all seated 350 capacity venue is completely sold out, maybe even over sold, as the standing room at the rear is full too!
From my front row seat (it’s useful to have friends with connections!) I witness LaFave appear on stage to a rousing reception, accompanied by his four piece band. Acknowledging the audience he says ‘we’ll play a couple of songs, and then I’ll introduce the band’ whereupon they opened with the tender Only One Angel from 1992’s AUSTIN SKYLINE. A familiar song, which features regularly in his set lists, it showcases his soulful voice and gets proceedings off to a spine tingling start.
Introducing the band, Chip Dolan (keyboards), Bobby Kallus (drums) Glenn Schuetz (bass) and Richard Feridun (guitar) LaFave moved into a Bob Dylan cover - It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry. He’s well known for his interpretations of Dylan songs and emphasises what an excellent lyricist Dylan is, something that is not always apparent when Dylan ‘sings’ Dylan!
LaFave sings with his eyes closed and doesn’t say a great deal between songs, preferring the music to do his speaking for him. Throughout the evening he mixes the song selection between originals and covers, between ballads and rootsy rockers, concluding the almost one hour long first set with one of his most requested ballads Never Is A Moment.
A thirty-minute break ensues then the second set opens with another Dylan cover Love Minus Zero (No Limit). The loudest applause of the night is in response to his own River Road. LaFave pays homage to one of his biggest influences, Woody Guthrie, by including Oklahoma Hills and Hard Travelin’ in this, Guthrie’s centenary year.
Responding to a request, LaFave thinks for a moment ‘see if I can remember it’ and plays Café In The Rain - his band doesn’t seem in the least phased by being expected to accompany him on a tune that none of them has prepared for! Just goes to show what consummate musicians they are.
A well-deserved standing ovation in response to the evening’s twenty-two songs brings LaFave and his trusty compatriots back for an encore – Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. The timbre of his voice is so distinctive, so recognisable that it enables him to always make, whatever he sings, sound so special. It’s a fitting end to the first night. A friend observes this Halloween show to be ‘all treats, no tricks!’ and I couldn’t agree more!
Dateline: November 1st 2012. Bus to Nijmegen. Train to Zwolle.
Jimmy LaFave and Band – Hedon, Zwolle.
An all-standing venue, with a mezzanine, this is another sell-out show. A crowd has formed long before the doors open and it was becoming very clear, just how much, his Dutch fans, revere LaFave.
Opening the show for the second night running with Only One Angel LaFave starts off singing , accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar; the band gradually joins in by building up the instrumental layers, sympathetically and sensitively. LaFave doesn’t work with a set list so quite often his band doesn’t know what is coming up. This was apparent when four songs in, he turned to them and said ‘do this one here in the key of A, boys’ and they strode into Going Home.
Some similarities in the choice of songs to those played the previous evening were expected yet we got to hear a number of different tunes including Deep South 61 Delta Highway Blues, J. J. Cale’s Call It the Breeze and Dylan’s Just Like a Woman. Feridun, on guitar, really came into his own tonight when on a number of songs he plays extended solos. Dolan, on keyboards, also contributes solos. The five-piece give the impression, once again, of having a really good time together in front of an appreciative audience; everyone is pleased to see LaFave on Dutch soil once again.
That’s the Way it Goes the upbeat closer has the crowd toe-tapping to the beat and sends us off into the good night beaming and wanting more! We are greedy! Who could complain at two sets, twenty songs and musicianship of the first order?
Dateline: November 2nd 2012. Car in Zwolle.
Jimmy LaFave and Band – Private Party, Zwolle.
A very relaxed evening as it’s a private party celebrating the host’s belated 60th birthday and actual 39th wedding anniversary. There are approximately 100 party goers, some are very familiar with LaFave’s body of work, others less so. Recognising this, LaFave gently suggests that those who want to listen take the three rows of seats, which have been set up immediately in front of the stage and those who want to party, take up the space at the sides and rear of the room. It works out really well; it’s a win/win situation.
Starting off with a couple of Dylan’s songs Buckets of Rain and Pledging My Time, I thought ‘this is going to be different’ and it was! My American friends, who have been to more LaFave shows than anyone else on the planet, testified that the choice of songs included some that are very rarely played – Joe Ely’s Because the Wind, George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately as well as LaFave’s own compositions When I See You Again and Desperate Men Do Desperate Things.
Tonight, there was a lot of on stage banter with LaFave at one point towards the end, challenging Dolan (who seems to be able to play just about anything) to play snippets of most unlikely tunes – who would have thought that the performance would include snatches of Van Halen’s Jump???? I kid you not!
Before the show, during the break and after completing the set, LaFave and his band joined in the celebrations. In the words of Cole Porter “what a swell party this is!”
Dateline: November 3rd 2012. Train to Amsterdam. Train to Bruekelen. Car to Lage Vuursche.
Jimmy LaFave and Band – In The Woods, Lage Vuursche
And so to this venue which is literally situated ‘in the woods’ for show number four. Run on a not for profit basis by music lovers who attract a discernible audience, the tickets for the show sold out as soon as they went on sale and I was told that this 165 capacity venue (although they definitely squeezed in more for LaFave’s show) could have sold three times over such was the demand!
Whilst keen applause and cheers of appreciation greeted LaFave and his band you could have heard a pin drop during the songs such was the attentiveness of the audience. From the first notes of Only One Angel to the last notes of Jackson Browne’s Your Bright Baby Blues and all points in between, the audience was treated to a classic performance featuring as it did, twenty three songs of which almost half were covers.
During the evening someone had placed a sheet of paper on the floor of the stage with Loved You Like Rainbows written on it. LaFave spots it as they return for an encore. He says to the audience that the band has never played it before, enquires of Schuetz if he knows it to which the reply is ‘we’ll just follow you!’ and so they did! Amazing!
Dateline: November 4th 2012. Walk in Amsterdam.
Jimmy LaFave and Band – Paradiso, Amsterdam
A few days beforehand, I’d received an e-mail from the ticket agency informing me that the venue had been switched from the 350 capacity Bitterzoet to the Main Hall at the Paradiso. Apparently the smaller venue sold out within an hour of the tickets going on sale! Hundreds of us therefore arrived at the Paradiso, which has a history of hosting world famous acts. David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, U2, Lady Gaga, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. etc. have all performed here - and of course LaFave. It was a highly anticipated return for him, some four years after he previously played the Paradiso.
Although it was all standing with a bar at the rear of the hall, which usually means that people will talk through the performances, most of the audience tonight was very respectful. Yes, there were a few who chatted but they were soon told to ‘be quiet’ in no uncertain terms.
‘Hello, so nice to be here again’ said LaFave before starting the performance in typical fashion (Only One Angel). Six songs in he thanks the audience for coming out on a rainy Sunday night, tells them his flight home is tomorrow and invites everyone to come to Texas. He shouldn’t be surprised if people accept the invitation, I know some who will be taking a transatlantic flight to do just that next year!
Back to the show though, it’s one long set tonight, more rockier in feel than the other shows – it suits the venue and suits the audience. The sound system is superb and the sight lines in this venue are excellent wherever you stand. LaFave introduces Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate by saying it’s a song that reminds him of Amsterdam. Dylan wrote ‘they walked alone by the old canal’ so it’s easy to see why he’s reminded of this city.
The two-hour plus show goes by in a whirl – they come back for a two-song encore; the house lights come up and we think ‘that’s it’ but the applause continues. The house lights go down, they appear on stage again and LaFave surprises us all by strapping on an electric baritone guitar and playing another Dylan song Tomorrow Is A Long Time and John Waite’s 1980’s hit Missing You (he’s covered both songs on his latest album DEPENDING ON THE DISTANCE). What a finish! What a finale! What a way to bow out after an incredibly successful tour!
Five shows in five nights. One hundred songs. Thirty-nine different songs. Hundreds and hundreds of happy fans. Thank you Jimmy, Chip, Glenn, Bobby and Richard.
Oh and just in case you were wondering, yes, I will be on that transatlantic flight to Texas next March! Jela Webb