After witnessing a highly interactive, emotional concert by the legendary front man and his esteemed players, a revved up City Winery audience made enough racket to secure four encores from Eric Burdon and The Animals on Tuesday, February 16th
Singer/songwriter/producer Eric Burdon hails from Newcastle, England. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer began his career fifty years ago. With the Animals, he recorded a solid string of youth-inspired hits such as ‘House of the Rising Sun,’ ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. With the psychedelic/funk ensemble War, he recorded the bittersweet ‘Sky Pilot’, the psychedelic ‘Spill The Wine’ and more.
The band had faced frigid temperatures at their last appearance in December, when they also welcomed veteran fans and newcomers alike. There was no standing on ceremony at this performance, where the team rolled up sleeves and performed hit after hit. Burdon, who wore a flowing white shirt over black, joined his mates after a brief, instrumental warm-up and sang, ‘When I Was Young,’ with just the right touch of nostalgia.
‘Inside Looking Out’ heralds back to the 1966 ‘Animalization’ album. Tonight it featured keyboardist Red Young’s slow burning Hammond B3 and the spine-tingling electric wailings of Billy Watts. “I’ll be happy like a newborn child,” Burdon crooned, eyes slammed shut, arms extended to the Heavens in this tune about desiring lasting love.
It was time to rock hard. ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ fired up all onstage pistons and even more on the floor where fans assisted enthusiastically on vocals. They employed a more subtle build up for Ray Charles’s ‘I Believe To My Soul.’ The interplay all around was exciting, but especially of note were Young’s sporadic, buttery solos, which spanned the range of the keyboard. The backing vocals also brought it to life.
‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ forced the crowd on their feet as reggae beats backed up Burdon’s desperate plea. On the next song, ‘Mess Around,’ another Charles classic, Burdon’s fluid voice brought to mind a classic Louis Armstrong trumpet texture.
‘Trying To Get To You’ featured a strident, clear-as-bell bass, which crisply echoed Burdon’s lyric. A litany of tempo changes made this one suspenseful ballad. Percussion flew out from every corner of the stage for ‘Bo Diddley Special’. Tony Braunagel, longtime Burdon co producer, added brilliant energy to the arrangements alongside percussionist Wally Ingram’s virile chops.
It never fails. The initial bars of this blues song triggered whoops of appreciation. ‘House of The Rising Sun’ remained relatively true to the original recording in terms of passion, but the players spun their own web of originality to each luxurious verse, ringing out mournful nuance.
It could have been a bittersweet occasion because it was Young’s last concert date with Burdon, yet the two made sure they engaged in good fun–their playful interaction illustrated a strong bond. Burdon has stayed the course for half a century not only because he is an outstanding showman, but also because he employs seasoned players.
The Animals boast impressive credentials. Fort Worth’s Young joined back up with Burdon as musical director and keyboardist back in 2006. He has performed with Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. He studied arranging with Nelson Riddle. He also manned Red and The Red Hots, a ten-piece swing band. Wisconsin-born Ingram has performed with Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Jackson Browne. Songwriters Terry Wilson and Billy Watts have worked within similar circles and have performed together in The Rhythm Tramps. They have both, too, cowritten songs on Burdon’s ‘Til Your River Runs Dry’ album of 2013.
The full house did whatever they could to get their musicians back onstage after ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’. High-pitch hoots and table bangs were kindly rewarded with ‘Spill The Wine,’ ‘It’s My Life,’ ‘Boom Boom’ and ‘I’m Crying’.
Chicago is getting use to having Eric Burdon and The Animals around these parts in the winter months, but will they grace us with their presence in the spring? Fingers crossed.