photo by Steve Rood
There is something special about The Wood Brothers on a Wednesday night. Or was it Tuesday? In actual fact, it was a Thursday night, but don’t fault Oliver Wood for getting confused. Whatever night he thought it was, it was another superb evening of Americana; roots and soul, rhythm and blues.
The Wood Brothers have made a habit out of rolling into Los Angeles sometime between Groundhog Day and the first blooms of spring. Steadily, they’ve outgrown the venues they’ve booked, moving this time from the Fonda in Hollywood to downtown L.A.’s Regent. It was a nearly full house- a good sign given the present global concern of gatherings; though many fans entering and exiting the theater were using elbows to push open doors, (the most hygienic method, presumably, short of kicking it down).
Onstage, The Wood Brothers were certainly kicking, opening with confident restraint on “Alabaster,” the lead track from their new Kingdom in My Mind. It was on “Glad” that the irony of a captivated audience hearing Oliver sing about being glad to see you, and glad to see you go, in the shadow of the COVID-19 virus, sank in a bit more consciously. “Don’t take it personally,” he quipped.
On “American Heartache,” Oliver’s protagonist never stays still. He’s always moving. So, too, are Oliver and his two mates- brother and bassist Chris Wood and percussionist/keyboardist Jano Rix- moving across a two-hour performance that supported their latest album while touching down as well on the band’s decade-plus history. Moving so much, guitarist Oliver even spoke of it being a Wednesday night in one of his between-songs asides.
He beautifully fingerpicked through the harmonized chorus of “Little Bit Sweet,” as Chris plucked fluidly on upright bass, and Rix held the pulsing beat steady. They dished out party favorite “Shoofly Pie,” and slid into Chris’ thumping bass and his turn on lead vocals for the sober “Don’t Think About My Death.” They dedicated “When I Was Young” to all the young people, of which they counted basically anyone alive, then to all confessed being broken during, of course, “Little Bit Broken.”
Two Wood Brothers neo-classics followed: first with a tender “Postcards from Hell” welcomed cheerfully by the L.A. throng, then on the shaking “Who the Devil” that followed Chris’ spooky bowed intro and inspired him to dance interpretively midway in. Gathering around Big Mic, they sang and played as an old-time trio, appreciative that the shushers were keeping chatty temporarily in check. The mini-set culminated with a sing-along on “I Got Loaded” that released the crowd from their self-imposed quiet time, transitioning nicely into the electrified mash-up of “Happiness Jones” and the throwback soul of Charles Wright’s “Express Yourself.”
Closing with a rousing run at The Band’s “Ophelia,” Rix returned alone for the encore, on solitary keys, before the brothers Wood reappeared and took their full-throated fans through “Luckiest Man.” As they headed for their paradise at the finish line of the steamrolling “Snake Eyes,” Oliver summed up the latest winter installment of The Wood Brothers in Los Angeles. “I don’t care what you say. It’s Friday night now.”