initially hearing word of Stephen Stills’ and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s new
supergroup The Rides, I was fairly skeptical. That’s not to say that I thought
that band would be disappointing but let’s face facts – it sounds like a dad
band made in heaven. Not only do you have a lineup ripe for Father’s Day, but
also the band’s namesake is based around the group’s mutual love of classic
cars. Furthermore, what dad do you know that secretly doesn’t wish he were a
member of a blues-rock band? My point exactly. Nonetheless, Stills, Shepherd,
and company were enough of a draw themselves to warrant an ass in a seat
(namely mine) at California State University Northridge’s Performing Arts
Center on Sunday, November 3rd.
concert for local radio station KCSN took
place in CSUN’s immaculate Great Hall, with nearly every seat filled by fathers
sporting groovy Hawaiian shirts or baby boomers with vintage CSNY tour swag. As
the lights dimmed I heard one dad say to another, “What time is David Crosby
going on at?” If I had any doubts that I was in the wrong place, they were now
opening act, LP, did a truly fine job setting the mood for the evening. Reminiscent
of a Cat Powers and Cyndi Lauper hybrid, LP’s stage presence was equally as
exuberant as her music. Look out for the ukulele-slinging operatic phenom in
the very near future.
Williams took the stage next, with Wallflowers guitarist Michael Ward in tow.
As expected and as per usual, Williams proved why Time Magazine rated her
“America’s Best Songwriter” as her astounding performance and persona had
everybody – even the curmudgeon planted next to me – tapping their feet and
singing along to “2 Cool 2 Be 4 Gotten”. Despite a drunkard yelling, “Play
Runnin’ Wild! Do Runnin’ Wild!” every few minutes, Lucinda’s rousing set was
the perfect segue into The Rides.
waiting in line to grab an overpriced IPA and gulping it down in order to not
miss the beginning of the set, The Rides strode on stage and immediately busted
out some serious blues. I’m not going to be as ignorant as to suggest that a
group of middle-aged white guys can play the blues better than B.B. or Buddy,
but Stephen and Shepherd made a damn good go at it. Shepherd, a guitar hero in
his own right, so effortlessly transcended into another realm of musicianship
several times that night, with Stephen not far behind. The recordings don’t do
this group of men justice – in concert they are astonishingly superb.
I certainly can’t overlook the enormous contributions of ex- Stevie Ray Vaughn
drummer Chris Layton and bassist Kevin McCormick who kept a superbly tight
groove behind the guitarists. The tremendous powerhouse of the night, however,
was keyboardist Barry Goldberg, without whom The Rides would not sound nearly
as cohesive or Chicago- Blues oriented.
played through such classics as Stills’ “Treetop Flyer”, “Love The One You’re
With” and Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World”, as well as Shepherd’s “Blue
On Black”, showcasing awe-inspiring jams of Stills and Shepherd’s solo bodies
of work. Of course, the buck didn’t stop there – Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee” and
Elmore James’ “Talk To Me Baby” were just as powerfully resonant performances
as the blues standards covered.
is a perfect example in not judging a band based on my own lame conceptions or
the age and likely target market of those listening to it. There’s a reason
Hendrix once told Stills that he thought him to be the best living guitar
player – the man is still a God among men in late 2013. Pleasing dads, baby
boomers, and pretentious music writers like myself, The Rides truly delivered
an amazing show.
Born and raised on
classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in
Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of
music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime.
He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can
be found at his blog.