At 6-feet tall and 66 years old, Marcia Ball still has plenty of boogie-woogie in her fingertips and a fantastic band.
In her first appearance in three years at the Crystal Bay Casino, an energized “long, tall Marcia Ball” led a spirited 2-hour, 21-song performance before an appreciative audience of blues lovers Friday night. The size of the Sept. 24 crowd was ideal for the dancers, who had just enough room to shake about the place.
“We thank you for supporting live music in general and us in particular,” Ball said.
The Austin. Texas, resident with 42 Blues Music Nominations from a recording career that began in the 1970s. She played many of her best-known songs, as well as four from her latest album, “The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man.”
“It’s about a year old now, so it should be walking,” Ball said.
It was Ball’s seventh Crown Room show, but she’s been coming to Lake Tahoe since the Crystal Bay’s general manager, Bill Wood, worked at the Hyatt at Incline Village. Wood, also a Texas native, has hired Ball all the way back to when she played at his brother’s wedding.
“This might be the best band she’s had,” Wood said during Friday’s show.
Mighty Mike Schermer joined the group around 2012, leaving Elvin Bishop’s band but retaining his house in Truckee. He had plenty of support from the hometown fans as he deftly ripped guitar solos. He even sang one of his songs from a solo album to be released next week.
“Buy it, don’t Spotify it,” Schermer urged the crowd.
The rhythm section kept the pocket hot. Don Bennett has played bass in the band for 34 years. Damien Llanes was solid on drums. Besides Ball, a star of the show was saxophonist Eric Bernhardt, who replaced Thad Scott almost exactly one year ago.
“Thad was diligent about keeping charts and he put them all in a Dropbox folder for me,” Bernhardt said about learning Ball’s music library. “I studied YouTube videos, had three sessions with Todd and one rehearsal with the band.”
Bernhardt whipped the crowd into a frenzy with solos on back-to-back songs midway through the show, “Louisiana” and “Right Tool for the Job.” Bernhard for last four years has lived below sea level in New Orleans, stepped back to catch his breath. After the second solo, he stepped back to catch his breath.
“I thought I was Johnny Griffin for a minute,” he joked after the breathtaking show.