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