February 3rd, 2012
Loopster Live: G. Love and Special Sauce at House of Blues
I’ve only ever heard good things about G. Love and Special Sauce concerts. When all you get is tales of positive experiences, getting your hopes up is a natural occurrence. As show time approached, you could find Richard and I tossing back song titles we hoped to hear and stories we hoped to make our loved ones jealous for missing out. After an energetic set filled with bass solos, blasting harmonicas, the occasional rapping break down and a four-song encore that included two cover songs, we had enough material to brag about for the coming year.
Before we could get to the adrenaline rush, Kristy Lee would command the stage first. She brought with her a handful of stories and demand for fan interaction. Along with her usual bandana and ballcap ensemble, she sported a McGonigel’s Mucky Duck shirt, a souvenir from her last trip to Houston.
The woman from Mobile, AL started things off with a song about her grandmother and brought them to a close with a request to meet her at the merch table to give her a “hug on the neck.” In between all that, her surprisingly full voice (one that Richard said he wouldn’t have expected to come from her) was complimented with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a story for each song. This wouldn’t be the last we saw of the opening act. It seems G. Love had more plans for his touring buddy.
G. Love took the stage with Special Sauce and found himself a seat in front of the microphone, harmonica hanging from his neck, but he wouldn’t be kept chair-bound for long. The man knows how to work a crowd, and Special Sauce ain’t no slouch either. With Timo Shanko on the upright bass and Jeffery Clemens (Houseman) on drums, the trio swept the audience away individually and as a unit.
One thing isn’t certain, how much of a sports fan G. Love might be. After a quick mention of Houston he interjected “Tracy McGrady” randomly. Next was “Yao Ming” and finally “Charles Barkely” (which is understandable due to the Philly connection). Apparently the current Rockets roster doesn’t deserve love from the man of the same name.
The band from Philadelphia has been in the game since 1992 and the experience shows. G. Love and the crew seemed as much invested in their audience’s time as their own. They stopped briefly to thank all their fans whether it was their fifteenth or first show which led one lady in the crowd to scream out that it was her virgin experience. Of course, this was responded with a sing-song “ain’t nothing like the first time baaaaaaaaby” from the frontman.
“Who’s been with us since the beginning: The Sattelite, Numbers, Fitzgerald’s, The Warehouse… that outdoor place…. Piney Woods… Piney Pines…?” Love rattles off all the places they’ve played at in Houston eliciting crowd response for each and the Houston crowd especially tries to correct him with “The Woodlands!” Just as the air started to reek of the sticky stuff, the band jumps into “Who’s Got the Weed” which gets the crowd fired up (literally and figuratively).
It was a night for grooving and it passed all too quickly. We sunk into the chill vibe that G. Love and Special Sauce exudes and before we knew it, we were joining in the chants for the band to come back to the stage. First, the front man took the stage playing two solo songs in between which he asked the crowd if it was ok if he just “chilled on the front porch by himself for a song.”
Special Sauce comes back on stage taking up their instruments to dive into a cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” because, as Love tells it, “on a flight from Pittsburgh to Houston, we sat next to Johnny Cash.” Though I didn’t need the detail to enjoy the rendition, now I can’t stop thinking about what kind of conversation they had. Kristy Lee joined the rest on stage to duet on vocals. With the way that Love and Lee played with each other, it’s immediately obvious her show would be even more improved with a band to bounce wordplay off of.
For the last two of the four songs in the encore, G. Love and Special Sauce play through “Milk and Sugar“, from the newest album Fixin’ to Die, and a cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” which appears on the same record. I want to say that the entire experience was surprising and fulfilling, but it was entirely expected. I’m just glad that the G. Love legend that I had heard about is alive, well and still blowing away audience members.