By Brendan Ross
July 20, 2015
You know how sometimes you go see a show with a specific set of songs in mind that you really really want to hear live? You know when you go to that show and none of the songs you “really really want to hear live” get played? You know when that couldn’t possibly matter less and it still ends up being one of the best shows you’ve ever seen?
Hey guys. This was that show.
At 9:15 on Monday night Shuggie Otis took the stage at Lee’s Palace. This was approximately ten minutes after I arrived, full of a false sense of confidence that there would be an opening act and therefore no need to hurry. I need to stop doing that because one of these days I won’t be so lucky.
During the five whole minutes I spent waiting impatiently for the show to start (it’s a tough job, people) my imagination was running wild trying to imagine what Shuggie Otis, currently 61 years old, would be like as a performer. I don’t see a stool set up at the front of the stage. This is good. There were three badass looking guitars lined up next to the mic stand. Despite the fact that I don’t know a damn thing about guitars, I know that this is good, also. All signs seemed to point to the fact that this was definitely going to be a rock show, not an “old-timer with an acoustic telling hard-to-follow stories about the music business in 1973.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it just wasn’t the show I wanted to see on this particular night.
After those five strenuous minutes finally passed there he was: dressed to the T in black pinstripe pants, a white puffy shirt, and an ultra-classy vest. Shuggie Otis’s style has not changed one bit since the 1970s and this was entirely OK with me. He gave a brief but sincere acknowledgement to the audience, with a sly wink that told us that we were all in for a good time. Without any hesitation he and his marvelous band fired into their opening track and it wasn’t long until Lee’s Palace felt like that bar from Adventures In Babysitting where the bluesman forces Elizabeth Shue to sing “Babysitting Blues.” This is a worthy reference people, look it up.
I regret the fact that I did not manage to obtain a set list almost as much as I regret the fact that I was not familiar enough with Shuggie Otis’s material to reference the entire set list by memory. For this I apologize to you, faithful reader. I will, however, say that despite the glaring omission of such songs as “Inspiration Information” and my personal favorite “Aht Uh Mi Hed.” Shuggie and Co. did not miss a single step, with the clear winner of the night being the beautiful and gritty “Wings Of Love,” a song that instantly made me feel like I was the love interest in a ’70s crime drama.
I could easily go on and on about how much I loved the show. So I will. I loved how committed Otis was to the 8+ minute jams, many of which were so hypnotizing that I completely forgot which song I was even listening to, resulting in that jolt of excitement when they went back into the chorus of the song I damn near forgot I was listening to.
The entire set was so perfect and although the crowd may have been sparse (I was able to glide to the bar and back to the front of the stage with ease midway through the show), it was clear that nobody wanted the show to end. This was confirmed by the uproar and instant group chant for an encore when Shuggie said his first goodnight. The chant worked, we all got to hear “Strawberry Letter 23,” everybody went home glowing, and for a brief moment all was right in the world.