Better than: Doin' the funky Branson
How well performer or act bears the ravages of time seems to be inversely related to how deadly serious it took itself in the first place. The reception given a beloved dotard like Lou Reed is rather less self-conscious than that accorded a bloated K.C. still chirping with the Sunshine Band, so it shouldn't be surprising if one enjoys the former less as an experience.
In the case of War, the 1970s L.A. sunshine-funk agglomeration, the goodtime vibes their memory evokes were enough to disarm expectations. Singer/keyboardist Lonnie Jordan, the sole original member, is well past sixty, most of the rest of the seven-piece band didn't look that much younger, and neither did a lot of the crowd already at Yoshi's when the band unlimbered at eight on the dot.
This was one night when the bricks jumped on Memory Lane. Jordan promised War's "hit set" like it was the only one they knew and proceeded to run, James Brown-style, through marathon whacks at the act's extensive hit-heavy catalog, along with a few sidewise swerves into hits 'n' standards that make compiling a setlist pointless.
Jordan wrestled intermittently with "organ problems" as Viagra quips abounded. His rap leading into a chilly run at "Me & Baby Brother" came just short of calling the endless war in Afghanistan "unnecessary," but American entertainers just don't say things like that any more. The audience-participation vocals on "The Cisco Kid" were a hoot, and the long bravura run at "Ballero" was for me the high point -- one of those gorgeous extras a life of concert-going periodically pours into your ears.
Random notebook dump No. 1: If L.A. knew itself at all, 'The World Is a Ghetto' would rank right alongside 'Wouldn't It Be Nice.'
Random notebook dump No. 2: I can't believe they actually did "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
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In short, it was nothing like one of War's classic LPs, but everything like the vibe you get from listening to them. My girl was dead game about getting pics, but ran afoul of security even as a half-dozen others were snapping away. In the end, she just gave up and shouted and danced and swayed with everyone else. The Sixties revue intro-the-band bit went over huge, with big lashings of Cream and Junior Walker laid atop all that spacious West Coast funky stuff. Despite the meandering jazzy vibe and numerous asides, the set ended at almost precisely the two-hour mark. It's good not to overwork such precision funk instruments.