Garth Hudson & The Crowmatix
The Forum, London, March 1st, 1999
They moved into a Toots & The Maytals piece, which I don't know, but the lyrics included The more you get, the more you want. Aaron's bass part on keys and Randy's drumming combined in a wonderful, lurching reggae feel. Garth was still playing accordion. Then they moved into High Price of Love, a number I'd never singled out fromHigh on The Hog. I've heard Band live versions on tape, but I preferred this version. Marie featured on lead vocals for Fading Fast, a song I didn't know. The title's from the set list. The audience were there mainly for Mercury Rev - the concert was sold out before Garth was announced - and they were loving every second of it. As were Mercury Rev, who all watched from the wings.
The middle of the set was instrumental, with four pieces linking into each other. A keyboard section of sheer Hudson genius (presumably Saigon and Creod on the set list) moved into Garth on saxes for Garth's Largo, then into a version of Duke Ellington's 1937 classic, Caravan . It was insiduous snake-charmer music, and any snakes around North London on a wet cold day would have been charmed, believe me. The backing throughout was fluid and supportive, with Marie playing a wide variety of percussion instruments along with Randy's drums and Aaron's keyboard. Then they snapped back into Young Blood with Garth's hoped-for vocal contribution.
Then came a piece which Garth announced as Rumanian Girls. Gino Lupari of Four Men and a Dog came on with bhodran, giving us three percussion players. I wouldn't know how to describe it. Eastern European folk dance whirling around. Totally compulsive listening. And it all blended finally into a version of Jimmy-Crack-Corn featuring the three vocalists again.
Then the three came back on, and that crunch as they launched into Chest Fever came. That sublime moment at Band concerts. And of course, Randy now is the voice of Chest Fever, he has been for years. Does it superbly too. Marie and Aaron were singing with him. A thrill to see from beginning to end. This is a great four piece, and they're NOT playing what you'd expect or following Band arrangements. They're adding all the time. They have to take this line-up on the road, and let America hear it. What about an album?
For those who are wondering about adventures with ticket touts, Tom Morreti of Woodstock Records and Randy Ciarlante ensured that all three of us had passes. I left Jan and Lee with Garth & The Crowmatix at the Forum at about midnight for my drive back to the coast. Two hours of open road with "Jubilation" and "Deserters Songs" on at full volume. I remembered writing in my review of "Jubilation" on the site that only Garth, Randy, Aaron and Marie appear on every single track.