Revamped Little Feat serves up an eclectic mix
Guitarist Paul Barrere of Little Feat sings on stage at Penn's Peak Saturday night.
There have been some changes with Little Feat since the band's last appearance at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe in December, 2008.
For one, the band has gone from a seven-piece to a six member unit, as it parted ways with female vocalist Shaun Murphy last year.
Also, drummer and original founding member Richie Hayward has been battling with liver cancer and has been replaced on the road by former drum technician Gabe Ford, the nephew of blues guitarist Robben Ford.
Musically, however, things pretty much remain the same with The Feat, which made its sixth appearance since 2004 at The Peak on Saturday night.
The band that formed in Los Angeles way back in 1969 still serves up an eclectic mix of rock, blues, jazz, funk, country and folk, sometimes within the same song, depending on which direction the Feat's famous jams are flowing at the moment.
The Feat's two-hour set kicked off in that fashion with the heady brew of "Voodoo Jam", giving it a chance to get warmed up and segue into "All That You Dream", one of its signature songs from its 1970's era.
Keyboardist Bill Payne then took the wheel for a spin through "Representing the Mambo" before guitarist Paul Barrere handed off the vocal baton to percussionist Sam Clayton for the funky, menacing "Spanish Moon".
Clayton was subjected to some good natured ribbing from Barrere, who called him "The King of Little Feat", since he was seated behind the band. Barrere then told the crowd it was Sam's birthday, although it actually wasn't, as a lead-in to "Old Folks Boogie".
The bearded and bespectacled Fred Tackett, who performs multiple musical duties with the Feat on guitar, mandolin and trumpet, took his turn on lead vocals for the enthralling "Honest Man."
An example of how much of an instrumental whirlwind the Feat can be when it gets rolling came during "Sailin' Shoes". The band shifted gears 3-4 times during the song, starting off with a slower tempo keyed by Tackett's mandolin and eventually taking off behind the honky-tonk pounding piano of Payne.
Any Feat show that features a rendition of the late founding member Lowell George's classic "Willin'" is one to remember, and Barrere, appropriately dressed in a tie-dyed shirt, was happy to oblige, even throwing in what he refers to as "the Jamaican National Anthem ("Don't Bogart That Joint") in the middle to entice the audience singalong, although the crowd didn't need any extra encouragement.
Payne provided another memorable moment by taking on the catchy folk rocker "Fallin' and Flyin'" from the Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart.
The Feat really got cooking with its extended versions of two more George standards. The funk-filled "Fat Man in the Bathtub" had the crowd in front of the stage gyrating behind Barrere's slide guitar licks and the rhythmic beat which actually morphed into reggae in the midsection with Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up".
The encore had to be "Dixie Chicken", of course, and the Feat delivered a heaping helping, complete with solos from bassist Kenny Gradney and Payne, as well as Tackett's trumpet on the intro.
Throughout the evening, Ford proved to be up to the task of driving the Feat's engine from behind his drumkit, handling the shifting taking the music whichever way the band was willing to go.
Here's hoping Hayward's health continues to make a turn for the better. Meanwhile, Little Feat will continue to be denizens of the Proud Highway, showing the current generation of jam bands just how it's supposed to be done.