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Taj Mahal Trio Live! 
House of Blues, Anaheim
28 August 2005
by Gary Schwind

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This is the second time in about five months that I have seen Taj Mahal perform and I am just as impressed this time as I was the first time around. After an instrumental intro, Taj kicked off the show with "Checkin' Up on my Baby," which included a call-and-response to get the audience going. He already had a pretty good sweat going after only two songs.

Which brings me to this. To look at Taj Mahal when he's performing, you could easily wonder why "The hardest working man in showbiz" mantle was not bestowed on him. When I was a caddie, I knew a golfer named Tex who sweated a lot on those humid Ohio summer days. He called it "leakin ole." Taj leaks a lot of ole, but I think the reason he's not known as the hardest working man in showbiz is that it doesn't look like work for him. Taj Mahal always looks like he's having a good time and he is living proof that the great ones make it look easy. 

Both times I have seen Taj Mahal, I have been right up front, about ten feet away from Taj Mahal himself. If you ever see Taj (and you absolutely should), get as close to the stage as you can. Trust me; it's worth it to see the expressions on his face. It was especially worthwhile to see his expressions as he played "Blues with a Feeling," which he dedicated to all the women "with critical mass in the backside." He is one of the most expressive performers I have ever seen.

There is another reason to sit close to the stage. Somehow, it feels more personal, especially when he tells a story. At one point, he sat at his keyboard and said when he was growing up, his parents would have parties where they would put on Louis Jordan and Wynonie Harris records, roll back the carpet, and move the furniture so people could dance. That's what it's about, he said. The blues is dance music and you just gotta loosen up and get those hips moving. He sure succeeded at that. People were shaking their hips all night from "Annie Mae" and "Corinna" to "Queen Bee" and the beautiful "Zanzibar."

If you're anything like me, seeing Taj Mahal live will have one of two effects on you. It will make you want to add more of his music to your collection. Or, if you have every album Taj has ever made, it will make you want to go back and revisit all those albums so you can hear songs like "I'm Gonna Move up to the Country and Paint my Mailbox Blue" and "Fishing Blues."

After nearly two hours (it sure didn't feel that long), Taj capped the evening with an encore that included "Lovin in my Baby's Eyes" and "You're Gonna Need Somebody on your Bond." I walked out of there a) knowing I needed to pull out my Taj Mahal albums again and b) realizing once again that Taj Mahal is good for the soul.

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