JJ Cale – The Roll On Tour – Solo

Date and Venue 10 April 2009 @ 8pm | Capilano Performing Arts Theatre, North Vancouver

Reviewer John Jane

It’s a pretty broad testament to the guy’s popularity that when many Vancouverites would either be taking part in Good Friday observances or just heading out of town for the long weekend, this easy-going Oklahoman can still draw a capacity crowd to one of his concerts. Not only that – The gig was sold-out within an hour of tickets going on sale!

JJ Cale now 70, is one of a few surviving troubadours. Currently on his first solo tour in five years, essentially in support of his new recording Roll On, he has defined what has become known as the 'Tulsa sound' for close to five decades. Cale has good sonic reasons for choosing small venues. Those rough-hewn lyrics that are almost murmured could be pretty hard to pick up from the back of a large auditorium; also, the intimate club setting allows his fluid yet seemingly oh-so-casual six-string guitar work to come to the fore.

Looking comfortable in a grey t-shirt and grey jeans, Cale opened his show amid cheers from an exuberant audience with the long, scintillating guitar intro of Tijuana – a tune better known for its repeated first line: “Hey, Gringo! Can you take us across the border?” The opener was followed by the slower paced Lies, another song from one of his early albums.

With his distinctive drawl and carefree style, Cale quickly establishes a unique rapport with the audience. He doesn’t waste much time introducing either the songs or his side musicians. He likely believes that the fans who come to his gigs can already identify his tunes. The exception is an oft-repeated anecdote about After Midnight, a song covered by Eric Clapton that was used to sell Michelob beer and Claritin allergy medication.

The same philosophy may apply to the members of Cale`s band. David Teegarden (who was introduced briefly) has joined `the Maestro` (as he likes to call him) on the road on several previous tours. And I think I recognised bassist Bill Raffensperger, and drummer Jim Karstein playing on stage. Walt Richmond on keyboards made up the quintet.

Teegarden himself later delivered a creditable singing job on a You don't love me girl like you used to. The crowd also got a chance to exercise their lungs on Crazy Mama; some looking as if they had lost their way to a blues festival.

For a performer out to promote a new recording, Cale seemed happy to feed the audience`s appetite for his earlier material. Cocaine, Don’t Cry Sister Cry and Call me the Breeze all were included on the concert songlist.

The enigmatic rocker did conclude the show with Roll on from his latest recording. A portion of the proceeds from the show will be donated to local animal shelters. Keep on rollin’ JJ!

Local singer-songwriter Dustin Bentall (son of Barney Bentall) with his musical partner, Kendall Carson on electric violin helped get the audience in the right mood with a suitably down-to-earth performance with half dozen of his self-penned songs like Streets with no lights and Nine Inch Nails.

© 2009 John Jane