Last Dance At Tipitina’s
New Orleans’ famed Tipitina’s was a natural setting for The Radiators’ final shows captured on The Last Watusi. In fact, according to Scanlan and Malone, Tipitina’s was the only possible setting for the Rads’ big good-bye. We talked about the planning that went into choosing the songs for the 3-night run and the energy that the band felt from the stage.
Dave Malone: Tipitina’s was a natural for those final shows – it’s been our personal center of the universe since the beginning.
Reggie Scanlan: There was really no other place we could have played those final shows – it had to be Tipitina’s.
Dave Malone: At that point in time, we’d quit playing a bunch of songs – some of them just came and went – but we probably had an active song list of at least 500 songs. That’s why we could go to an area for a multi-night run: promoters loved us, because our fans knew they could come out for three nights in a row, two sets per night, and there would never be any repeat songs if we chose to do it that way. I never made a conscious effort to say, “Oh, we played this one last night so we can’t play it tonight” – that’s just absurd.
There are so many songs that aren’t on The Last Watusi that you may see some day – maybe on a DVD. Unfortunately, neither Ed nor I were in very good voice the week of The Last Watusi, so we listen to it and hear our voices sounding a little off, you know? But that’s just the nature of the beast; we decided before we ever did it that we were not going to do any fixing or re-recording of stuff … it was going to be warts and all, as is – so there you go.
We wanted a disc from each night to represent the feeling and the flavor of each of the three shows. There was no way we could fit everything onto three CDs, but we got a lot of the favorites, including some covers.
Reggie Scanlan: I’ll tell you something about covers: when The Radiators did a cover, we’d do it as good as the original. It might not be the same as the original, but it was fun to see what we could do with it.
But all our music was like that – some things would be pretty tightly arranged; some would be pretty loose. For me, I always kept a part of each song that was never the same; I wanted to see how it was going to turn out each night.
Dave Malone: There was so much energy each of those three nights at Tipitina’s being fed back to us from the crowd … it was Niagara Falls energy, dude. You could feel it like a wave … it scared the hell out of me in a delightful way. (laughter) So the tempos sped up on some of the songs; we were feeding off the energy of the crowd and they were chewing nails, man – it was crazy.
Although it is a compilation album of songs the band chose from their 3-night run at Tipitina’s, The Last Watusi flows like one, big, jam-packed show. The first disc of the 3-CD collection is all acoustic tunes, with the band proving that being unplugged does not inhibit the ability to jam. Malone and Scanlan described their feelings about playing in an acoustic setting.
Dave Malone: I love the acoustic stuff, man. Ed’s written so many different kinds of songs and we’ve covered so many different kinds of songs – except rap, thank God – that it was always good to have those few-and-far-between acoustic sets. I’ll be honest with you – they were difficult for the acoustic guitar player – but I just loved those songs.
Reggie Scanlan: Actually, the acoustic disc is my favorite one of the album.
I really like playing upright bass and I don’t really get to do that much anymore. The trick when you’re playing acoustically is everybody has to have a sensibility of playing quietly. Once you start getting loud and have to amplify things, you might as well be playing electric, ‘cause an upright isn’t going to sound like an upright at 100 decibels, you know? So, the challenge is to keep it on a conversational level. Acoustic instruments aren’t meant to be loud; the more you amplify, the more you get away from that.
Upright bass to me is absolutely gorgeous. Guys like Paul Chambers … Charles Mingus … they had such amazing tone and they got it all out of their hands.
Dave Malone: It’s hard to pull off acoustic stuff with a full drum set, for one thing. And the Rads were not necessarily known for their … um … soft dynamics, let’s say. (laughs) We were kind of an off-the-wall rock band and we played every kind of music imaginable. But I loved the acoustic stuff.