On a Tuesday night in early summer, what better companion to rock the night away than honorary local Jackie Greene in the Crystal Bay Casino’s newly refurbished Crown Room?
Word has it how much Jackie likes coming up to Tahoe (which he also mentioned early on in his performance); gauging by the number of appearances he’s made in recent months, it’s easy to see how his word is true. Of course, we appreciate his visits as much as he loves the lake – a win-win for all.
This week was no exception, except that it was rolling out of the newly remodeled Crown Room. Given it was a midweek show, perhaps it was no surprise that the now 750-person capacity did not quite fill up. Instead, those who did attend got an up-close and intimate show with Jackie and his band, with plenty of room still left to dance and socialize.
Removing the booths and satellite bar along the sides of the room opened up much more space for patrons to lounge, dance, and squeeze toward the front of the stage, for those so inclined. Fans and staff alike applauded the change as a good one. An important note for the dancing crowd: the wooden floor still bounces when the room really gets humming. Huzzah!
To a mixed crowd of already established fans, and tourists lucky enough to be in town for the night, Jackie opened with a bluesy number, “Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind,” whipping through insightful lyrics and a steady, driving rock ‘n’ roll ethos to warm up. “I’m So Gone,” another seemingly prophetic cautionary tale, was followed by the sweet, melodic ballad, “Silver Lining.” This, like many of Jackie’s original songs, speak of common experiences in simple ways, commonalities we all walk through every day.
But never mind thinking it’s just a simplistic message Greene and his band deliver. Take the fourth song of the set (note: three guitar changes for Mr. Greene in those four songs), a grunge-type driving rhythm and dark-effect guitar mélange, backing to the chant-like message of “Medicine,” where Greene emphatically asserts, “I don’t want your medicine, creeping round my head … I like who I am,” to the cheering solidarity of the crowd.
Reminiscent of The Band’s style, Greene’s “Light Up Your Window” returned to a sweet ballad notion whose lyrics and chord progressions meted out the lonesome miles where the “rhythm of the freight train meets the sound of a jet plane humming – light up your window, baby, I’ll be coming home.” Jason Crosby sparkled on this number, with delicate keyboard harmonies and lilting leads flowing from the prowess that this fine young musician displays.
Speaking of Crosby, he performs with several ensembles (The Jason Crosby Band, Robert Randolph and the Family band and Assembly of Dust) and, according to CBC’s sound man, “plays in practically every band there is these days.” What a treat, to find him sitting in with Greene’s band for the night. A superb multi-instrumentalist, Crosby played his violin on several songs, tearing up what might normally be considered traditional picking and bowing techniques, rippling off notes like chattering birdsong; midstream, or at the end of any number of such searing jams, he’d smile humbly, then grin quite delightedly, clearly enjoying himself and the evening’s set.
Other band members were equally impressive, especially Jackie’s “right-hand man” Nathan Dale: literally, he stands on Greene’s right-hand side on stage, but as was obvious from their fevered jams and clear affinity for playing together, Dale is clearly Jackie’s musical brother and counterpoint, exchanging sympathetic melody and harmonics.
A most skillful young drummer, Fitz Harris, and the soulfully laid back John Cornell on bass guitar rounded out the ensemble. Greene and Dale’s vocal harmonies deserve a special shout-out, with Harris hitting the high notes in perfect tonal unison. Greene’s voice, of course, is a stellar component of his musical aplomb: clear, strong, and resonant, he can mourn a ballad, shriek a rocker and croon a lullaby, with equal attention to nuance and tone for all. Of course, his multi-instrumentalist prowess is equally noteworthy: he jumped on harmonica to spice up several tunes, adding an upbeat, spry note to the songs. When he traded places with Crosby at the keyboards, he bounced between one foot pumping the Hammond organ, while the other worked keyboard pedals, and both hands jumped between the two instruments, singing perfectly in pitch the whole time.
For two full hours, Jackie and company moved between soulful, rocking grooves, rhythm & blues, funkified New Orleans’ pick-ups, and catchy, upbeat singing. They rounded the evening off with an encore of Jerry Garcia’s old favorite, “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” – a perfect ending to an evening of musical reverie and lively, well-played, impassioned rock ‘n’ roll.
For those (like this author) who are now fond followers of Jason Crosby, he’ll be appearing at the Tahoe City Concerts at Commons Beach on Sunday, June 26, from 4 to 7 p.m.
- Jackie Greene Band
Crystal Bay Club, June 14, 2016
Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind
I’m So Gone
Light Up Your Window
One Bad Love
So Hard To Find My Way
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin
Long Summer Night
Till the Light Comes
That’s What Love Makes You Do