Anyone who’s been to a concert on December 31st know that these particular shows bring with them expectations of ringing in the New Year with pageantry and jubilant celebration and usually a spectacular performance. This night was no exception and Jackie Greene and his band fulfilled his expectations with flying colors.
Playing an acoustic show the previous night in a seated forum, Jackie had a chance to perform some of his more folk and roots driven music with his harp, keyboard and acoustic guitar. The New Year’s show by comparison was electric and rocking with his full band and from beginning to end he was relentless. Opening with “Don’t Let The Devil Take Your Mind,” Greene and his band grabbed the audience’s attention and lit the room on fire. Sticking to the song’s album form, it wasn’t elaborated on or jammed out but with its deep and dark lyrics it was a great way to start a New Year’s Show! “I’m So Gone”, from the album American Myth was also performed in this fashion. Next we heard a little “Spooky Tiny” tease from Greene’s latest release before delving into a very hard rocking and meaningful “Medicine,” also off of Greene’s 2010 Til’ The Light Comes album. His chemistry with guitarist Nate Dale was intense as they played well off each other, at times with both guitars just a foot apart, switching lead to rhythm and back. The show seamed at this point to be somewhat routine but still powerful and electric when all-of-a-sudden Jackie played those tell-tale notes of “New Speedway Boogie.” It was one of those points in a concert where you know you’ve just past any place of return. “NSB” was jammed into “Bird Song,” another Grateful Dead tune and them spaced out back into “NSB” briefly before going into “The Other One Jam,” which was a juicy and psychedelic take on the Grateful Dead classic. It was a barrage of cover tunes, and all played on point to a sold out crowd of cheering, dancing fans.
The second set opened with a very spicy and somewhat rare “Mexican Girl,” one of Jackie’s oldest songs. He completely ripped the guitar section of the song with its Latin overtones and using the deeper register in his voice it was an excellent start to a second set. Soon after, Jackie moved to his Wurlitzer for a quick rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” It was a bit premature as midnight hadn’t hit yet but it made space for the perfect segue into the almost-gospel, organ-heavy “Tell Me Mama.” The New Year’s countdown was a bit anti-climatic, but at midnight confetti filled the air of the small venue and Jackie tossed his white flat-brimmed hat off to the side as he donned a Happy New Year top piece for an incredibly well placed “After Midnight,” sung by his drummer. “Hollywood” was bluesy and showed the range of Greene’s vocals and storytelling ability which led into the Beatles classic “Taxman.” As this song came to a very winding and long end we heard teases of another Grateful Dead classic, “Scarlet Begonias” and sure enough that was the next treat in store for the champagne drinking patrons of the Crystal Bay Club Crown Room. “Scarlet” was played with a definite Jackie Greene twist, and though very much respecting the tradition of the GD, he put a more dark and bluesy twist on it.
The show ended with a much anticipated “Gone Wanderin’,” an older song from Greene played to near perfection. Then he threw the New Years Eve hat into the crowd traded back for his white one and left the stage thanking his band, wishing all a Happy New Year and telling everyone to have a great night. The encore that ensued was a fine topper to a great show. With a slowly-building version of “Animal” and then an encore-worthy “Like A Ball and Chain,” these songs capped the evening’s activities on a very high note in such an intimate space.
Jackie Greene has always been one to evolve and he showed us this once again playing this small but very packed sold out New Year’s Eve show. His uncanny ability to move from one guitar to another, slip over to his organ, rip on the harp and play the blues, soul, folk and psychedelia was and is a testament to his multitude of talent. His showmanship is in his music and his voice has developed a range, almost a progression, as heard from his first album Rusty Nail to his latest Til’ The Light Comes. The Crown Room having been renovated recently with new lights, acoustics and sound, the show’s production was nearly pitch perfect, resulting in what may well remain one the new year’s hottest shows.