Dave & Phil Alvin & the Guilty Ones – Dakota Jazz Club (Minneapolis, Minn. – July 26, 2014)
“My brother Dave is a triple threat and I’m so proud of him – singer, songwriter, and guitar player.” That’s what Phil Alvin told a July 26 sellout crowd at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Minn. The show was winding down but fans were totally pumped as the Alvin brothers exchanged pleasantries and showed no sign of their famed sibling rivalry after Dave split from the Blasters. If anything, the duo was good-natured and philosophical; especially Dave, who mentioned Phil’s brush with death from a couple years ago. But the show wasn’t a teary-eyed folk fest. Instead, it was a rock and roll show as Dave switched from acoustic to electric guitar a couple songs in – apologizing in advance for cranking the volume – and staying plugged in the rest of the night. “I warned you,” he said, mentioning the availability of ear plugs in the back.
The show started somber enough as Dave, Phil and the Guilty Ones (Lisa Pankratz, Chris Miller and Brad Fordham) explored “All by Myself,” “Key to the Highway” and “Saturday Night Rub” off the Alvin Brothers’ tribute to Big Bill Broonzy entitled Common Ground: Dave & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy. The elder Alvin handled the lead vocals on the first couple songs and “Rub,” of course, is an instrumental. The pair then took us down memory lane as fans were treated to the Blasters’ version of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Never No More Blues” and Dave’s “King of California.” The next four Broonzy tunes – “I Feel so Good,” “You’ve Changed,” “How You Want it Done?” and “Southern Flood Blues” – were dominated by the younger of the siblings. Dave amazed on “I Feel so Good” with the first of many extended guitar jams. He also displayed two of his three “threats” as his vocal and guitar work on both “You’ve Changed” and “Southern Flood Blues” were nothing short of spectacular.
Next, Phil took the lead on Dave’s “Border Radio.” That was followed by Dave giving us a rendition of “Johnny Ace is Dead” from his excellent Eleven, Eleven album. The brothers then went back for the last of the Broonzy covers. Phil took the lead vocals on “Stuff They Call Money” and led the chorus as the band group sang the words to the title. They closed out the Broonzy songs with “Truckin’ Little Woman.”
From there, the Alvin brothers played an entertaining version of their duet “What’s Up With Your Brother?” off of Eleven, Eleven. The pair even snuck in a verse referring to the Dakota as a “swanky” club – connecting back to a comment Dave made at his first visit to the Dakota. We were even treated to a guitar solo from Phil. That was followed with one of the evening’s highlights, as Phil guided the band on an incredible rendition of the traditional song “Samson & Delilah.” The main set closed with versions of Dave’s “Dry River” and the Blaster’s “One Bad Stud.”
For an encore, the brothers Alvin played “Marie, Marie” – Blasters style with Phil on vocals – and a surprise extended version of Dave’s “Fourth of July.” The duo didn’t play Prince’s “Purple Rain,” as the set list suggests. After the show, both Dave and Phil came out for a meet and greet.