Thursday, March 29, 2007

Live Review: Marc Ford

Marc Ford
Belly Up Tavern
San Diego, CA

Thursday evening rush hour traffic and a short, but intense rainstorm is wetting the normally arid San Diego coastline, and after a full day at work, my enthusiasm for driving up the coast to the North County for a show is waning considerably.

For the next hour I will vacillate between attending tonight’s Marc Ford show at the Belly Up Tavern and getting a good night’s rest, but that permanent ringing in my ear (thank you rock ‘n roll) eventually convinces me to jump in the car and hit the highway. Besides, how often do you have a modern day guitar god playing in your backyard?

Since leaving the Black Crowes for a second and most likely final time, Marc Ford has kept busy producing up-and-coming artists like the Pawn Shop Kings and Ryan Bingham, as well as recording his own wealth of material, the fruits of which appear on his new solo album, Wired and Weary, recently released by Blues Bureau/Schrapnel Records.

After an hour long set by opener Deadline Friday, Ford emerged onstage to sit in with the band during their mini-set encore. Beginning with Ford’s own song “Giving” from his first solo album, It’s About Time, the crowd welcomed the addition of Ford’s trademark fluid lead work to the proceedings, energizing both the crowd and the band. Three songs later, Deadline Friday and Ford played a mellow, seriously non-Stonesy version of Loving Cup to end the set.

It was now approaching 11 PM and my fears of a late-late night had become a reality. Grabbing a fresh pint of inspiration, I headed to the front of the stage where I found some Ford faithful primed for some fretboard insanity. Ford and his band, including bassist/backing vocalist Muddy, keyboardist Mike Malone and drummer Anthony Arvisu took to the stage and ambushed the crowd with the smoldering amp buzz of the Crazy Horse-inspired opener - Smoke Signals.

Ford spent the first minute or so of Smoke Signals fiddling with his amps and pedals, but once he got the levels to his liking, it was on. Ten minutes of slow burning blues riffs finished in a mighty wash of feedback and thundering rhythm. The crowd ate it up considerably, and the band wisely kept the rock going by showcasing three new songs from Weary and Wired: Featherweight Dreamland, Dirty Girl and Don’t Come Around, all rockers featuring Ford’s effortless lead work and a propulsive energy that reminded fans of his long stint in the Black Crowes.

The band slowed things down a bit with a stunning version of the new song Currents. It’s been previously discussed on various internet boards, and tonight’s performance leaves little doubt that this song absolutely fuggin’ smokes live. Some fans have wondered what musical possibilities could have transpired if Ford had presented this song to the Robinson brothers prior to his departure from the Black Crowes, but to consider the what if takes away from the tidal surge of soul that Ford and his band put into performing this song tonight.

The past is just that – the past, and the present includes Ford leaning back with his eyes closed as his hands glide up and down the fretboard for that exact screaming note that will take the solid rhythmic hull that bassist Muddy and drummer Arvisu have carved and push it over the falls into a pool of audio ecstasy.

More songs from the new album are debuted, including Medicine Time, 1000 Ways and the instrumentally funky Greazy Chicken. Keyboardist/harpist Mike Malone added many colors and flourishes throughout the evening, leaving many, including this writer, to hope he becomes a regular fixture at future Marc Ford shows.

Aside from the musical triumphs, what was really cool to witness was Ford winning over the crowd, song by song. While there were many Ford and Black Crowe fans in the crowd, the majority had not heard of Ford or his music, and as the roars between the songs increased in intensity, new recruits were subliminally being drafted into the fold. This was especially satisfying as the clock inched past midnight and into the early morning hours.

Great versions of Bye Bye Suzy, Other Side and Same Thing ended the main set. The late hour finally took its toll on the Thursday crowd, but those who gutted it out were rewarded with the all-cover encore of Steady Rollin’ Man, Are You Experienced and a snippet of I Got A Feeling, the latter being an audible Ford called as Are You Experienced was winding down. This triple threat encore injected a full dose of enthusiasm into the crowd, leaving smiles plastered on both the band and fans alike.

It was a great ending to a fun and rewarding night. Glad I made it. Day job be damned!

Main Set:

Smoke Signals
Don’t Come Around
Dirty Girl
Featherweight Dreamland
Just Take the $$
Medicine Time
Greazy Chicken

Let it Shine
Baby What You Want Me to Do
1000 Ways

Bye Bye Suzy
Other Side
Same Thing

Steady Rollin’ Man
Are You Experienced? > I Got a Feeling

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