Last Friday, the Funky Biscuit celebrated its fourth anniversary by bringing in Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen to perform. Cleary is an English piano player and guitarist who’s lived in New Orleans for the last 30 or so years. While he’s been playing with his own band for a couple of years now, he’s most famous for being Bonnie Raitt’s piano player for more than two decades.
This night, Cleary and his band played two sets. He immedately gave great energy to the crowd, and the crowd gave it right back. It wasn’t only in his prescence, but also in his playing. He pressed those keys with such atitude and power that it just created a powerful sound that rang all throughout the place.
Another aspect that gave Cleary this amazing energy was his guitarist Derwin Perkins, also known as Big D. This guy could play as well as sing backup.All the strong backup parts were given to Big D because he handled them so nicely. Cleary must get a real thrill out of playing with him. The audience even knew who Big D was, and had as much of a love for him as they did Cleary.
Cleary mixed his two sets with many crowd favorites: “People Say” and “Help Me Somebody” among them. However, with his new album coming soon, he did a few songs from it. The disc, entitled Go Go Juice, is due August 14, and the band started the night off with tunes from it — “Beg Steal or Borrow” and “Gotcha Go Go Juice.” These were high energy tracks and got the audience into Cleary’s pocket from the get-go.
Meanwhile, he also couldn’t help but cover some of his favorite artists: Bonnnie Raitt and Professor Longhair. He performed “Tipitina” and “Go to the Mardi Gras” — both Professor Longhair tunes. Then he did “Fool’s Gold,” from Bonnie Raitt’s Silverlining album. Of course Cleary’s show would not be complete if he didn’t do “When You Get Back,” and he did this at the very end of the show. Big D, yet again, tore it up on backup.
I got to talk to Cleary for a moment after the show and told him how much I enjoyed Big D. I explained that the last time I saw him he didn’t have Big D with him, so this was my first time hearing him play. Cleary replied, “Well you know I always bring the best.” Even though I sort of knew that he could get the best, it still suprises me when I hear someone amazing in his band. It’s like finding a diamond in the rough, execept you don’t quite know what kind of a diamond you’ll find.