Live from the Beacon Theatre
directed by Kerry Asmussen
starring The Doobie Brothers
The logo represents an iconic brand. Over the last five decades, The Doobie Brothers’ contribution to American music has been incredible. In fact, to tabulate all their timeless hit songs and million-selling albums would require the fingers and toes of half the members of a large-sized local bike club. While their “family” faces have changed with the times, the band continues rolling down the highway, driven by co-founding “brothers,” singer / songwriter guitarists, Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston.
Captured onstage in front of 3,000 fervent fans at NYC’s legendary Beacon Theatre, the Doobie’s latest offering is a unique live concert package that delivers more than the standard “greatest hits” experience. The hook is an easy sell – “One Night” (November 15, 2018) / “Two Albums” (Toulouse Street and The Captain and Me) – available as a two-CD set, a deluxe 2-CD / 1-DVD combo and a Blu-ray edition.
For the casual fan, revisiting these Doobie hits live is a treat, indeed. However, for longtime die-hards, the deep album cuts provide maximum payoff. The ever-engaging ringleaders, Simmons and Johnston both lay down their signature-style A-games, directly from their comfort zones – connecting with the crowd and performing with the same ease and confidence as if they were at home, wrenching panheads on their vintage Harley Davidsons. Bringing additional “WOW factor” to the equation, perennial member John McFee brandishes an impressive array of musical weaponry throughout – guitars, pedal steel, dobro, violin, cello, harmonica and banjo, as well as providing his personal powerhouse vocals.
The first half of the show is dedicated to recreating the Doobie’s platinum-selling, 1972 sophomore slab, Toulouse Street. Kicking off with a pair of bona fide biggies, “Listen to the Music” and “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” the tunes bring the crowd to life – barely taking a breath ’til intermission. Seguing from “Mamaloi” into the title track, Simmons comments on the “growth” of the band over the years. “We’re taking some liberties with the arrangements – ‘cuz we can,” he announces casually. Johnston further encourages the crowd to “get up and boogie” as they launch into “Cotton Mouth.” Enhanced by Bill Payne’s fresh-sounding piano work, the longtime staple, “Jesus is Just Alright” still packs an impressive punch. Described by Johnston as “an old rocker from the club scene”, “Disciple” is another high-octane highlight that prompts even a gal in the balcony to dance with her beer swaying in the air. Featuring McFee on dobro, “Snakeman” is a sweet slice of all-American roots rock that brings the first set to a rousing conclusion.
Following an intermission break, the band returns to the stage to kick off their monstrous 1973 LP, The Captain and Me – a Top 10 treasure featuring a chart-busting double-shot – a tasty expanded version of “Long Train Runnin'” and an explosive version of “China Grove.” However, the true “Captain’s gems” are the “buried treasures,” including the blues-based “Dark-Eyed Cajun Woman,” the dual acoustic guitar-driven “Clear as the Driven Snow” and the ever-beautiful “South City Midnight Lady.” The band wraps the sweat-soaked show up with a heart-stopping encore combo of “Take Me in Your Arms,” “Black Water” and a special reprise version of “Listen to the Music.”
In sum, The Doobie Brothers Live from the Beacon Theatre is a superb production. Come for the music, but stay for – the music.