Saturday, August 30, 2008

James Hunter

video
James Hunter
Westbury, NY

August 29th '08


Last night, James Hunter pocketed a batch of new fans by playing a blinder, opening for Chris Isaak at Westbury's intimate theater-in-the-round. Mainly playing tunes from 'People Gonna Talk' and his latest, 'The Hard Way', James demonstrated with affable style and exceptional technique why Van Morrison calls him his favourite singer and so many others rate him one of the most exciting guitarists and songwriters around. It's probably fair to say that most folks in the audience weren't aware of James prior to tonight but judging by the line waiting to meet him and buy his merchandise during the interval, it would seem like he's well on the way to cracking the US. And good luck to him, I say. It couldn't happen to a more deserving, likable man.
I had arranged to meet him
briefly before the show, but his bus had broken down en route and they'd only just arrived, so organizing their equipment and a doing a short soundcheck precluded any pre-gig handshake. Thanks to Go Records' Kimberly and Aaron, James' unfazed and professional production manager, I was promised I'd get an ID for the station once his set was over and he'd done his meet and greet with fans.
Since the Capital One Bank Theater at Westbury is a "union hall", apparently this is enough to insist that the artist has to pay some kind of "facility fee" if they want to be photographed on the premises, including the parking lot. So, just to underline what a decent fellow James is, after impersonating Walter Matthau in the Odd Couple - "The irony is unless we sort out some other arrangement, I'm going to kill you, that's the irony of it"
- he took the time to walk with me to my car and we drove just off the premises to Brush Hollow Road where he graciously supplied me with what I needed. He seemed genuinely grateful for all the play he gets on the station and said, "as I get older, my taste become more Catholic. I find there's two kinds of music...Fats Domino and...shit!". Cue laughter all around. I told him I first heard 'No Smoke Without Fire' on WEHM, that it was one of those WOW moments and that we play tracks from all his albums, including 'Believe What I Say', 'Kick it Around' and one he made as 'Howlin' Wilf & The Vee-Jays'. James said that touring with Chris had been a real pleasure and that he and his band and crew been generous to a fault. Finally, I gave him a cd containing a few songs by The Lone Sharks, suggesting that when he came back to the Island as a headliner, he might want to consider them as openers. I then wished him luck and went back to my seat where Chris was in the middle of 'All The Way', resplendent in a hot pink number with glittering diamonte.
Vicky told me he'd already played 'Wicked Game', but 'Can't Do A Thing (To Stop Me)', 'Only The Lonely' and 'Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing' more than made up for it. This band has been together for 22 years and are as tight and accomplished as anyone could hope for. Their harmonies were spot on and their stage craft, communication, was delivered with aplomb and good humour. There seemed to be no limit to the amount of cameras flashing from the audience, so I guess Chris had paid the 'fee' necessary for his fans to take pictures. Either that, or some officious twerp just like to mess with the opening act. Chris came out for the encores in a 'disco mirror-ball' suit and brought James and his horn section (the brilliant Damien Hand & Lee Badau) back out for a rollicking 'Kansas City'. Soon it was all over. A marvelous show...go here and click on "slideshow" for a couple more pix...

James Hunter, Hershel Yatovitz & Chris Isaak
Westbury, NY

August 29th '08

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