At the age of 72, most people are looking to slow down, look back and enjoy life. Most people are not Eric Burdon. While he may be looking back, and while he definitely seems to be enjoying himself, slowing down is not on the menu for the foreseeable future.
From his time with The Animals in the 60’s and War in the 70’s, Eric Burdon has never been your average rock star. Attitude and raw talent, Burdon was always the bad boy, the guy willing to tell those in charge to kiss off; the singer who spoke for the disenfranchised. And the songs he wrote provided the escape route they looked for.
Appropriately, Eric Burdon opened his Wednesday night show at the Highline Ballroom in NYC with “When I Was Young.” The Ballroom was standing room only when he took the stage, and from the opening notes it was evident while he was no longer the young, punk-hero of 40+ years ago, Burdon was still full of piss and vinegar and ready to spit it out. Pumping up the energy and showing the strength of the band was “Inside Looking Out.”
Eric Burdon’s “Old Habits Die Hard”
Burdon drew from his latest release Til Your River Runs Dry for his next song “Water.” It’s a strong tune; one where the chorus easily gets the crowd involved. As the song ended, Burdon talked about his ability to change water into wine, leaving no doubt as to his next selection: “Spill the Wine.” Keyboard player Teresa James switched to flute, adding the perfect punctuation to an incredibly fun and rockin’ jam.
Calling out a little “Black Dog,” it featured some hot licks by guitarist Steve McFadden and a wickedly hot bass from Ron Johnson, as he beat the shit out of blues on this number. Burdon then paid homage to one of his idols with another song off River; “Riding on the Bo Diddley Special.” Full of the Diddley beat, this is one ride you want to jump on.
Eric Burdon & War’s “Spill the Wine”
As the opening notes of “It’s My Life” played, the crowd buzzed. It was time to pull out the classics; time to get gritty. One sweet guitar intro led into Burdon singing… “baby, do you understand me now.” After the stripped down opening verse, the crowd sang the title of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” along with Burdon. A slightly different arrangement than the original, it featured a nice little reggae beat just below the surface.
Going back to the new release, the old Bo Diddley standard “Before You Accuse Me,” was as strong as the album track, and twice as enjoyable. Asking “what’s that sound, the sound of teenagers running away from home,” as the familiar opening notes of “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” began, Burdon still fit the mode of the kid who never fit in. The start of the song did not hint at just how smokin’ a version this would be. It’s hard to find anyone who can’t relate to the lyrics and feel of this song. From the backing vocals to the fiery jam in the middle, this was the most intense song of the night. If you look toward 16th Street in Manhattan, you can probably still see smoke rising from the ashes.
Eric Burdon & The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”
It was time to throw in a little blues; Crawling Kingsnake featured a little acoustic guitar, some piano and a bit of tambourine. From there he slid into the old Joe Williams standard “Baby Please Don’t Go.” Burdon has always been a blues man at heart, it was a thrill to see him get down and dirty with those songs.
The final song of the set was the cover of a classic by which all other versions are measured: “House Of The Rising Sun.” With deep layers from the band, especially a blistering solo with the Hammond B3, there is no way the night would have been complete without hearing this. Back for an encore, the first choice was interesting: “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down And Out,” followed by “I’m Crying.”
Eric Burdon is still a commanding presence on stage. There were moments when his vocals were a bit sketchy, though mostly they were respectable to strong. But let’s face it, you don’t go to see Eric Burdon for his range. He is, and has always been about heart, soul and the raw vocal that comes from his gut. His new stuff is outstanding, and hearing the catalog from the original Animals and War is worth the price of admission.
No matter your age or if you are currently a fan – if you love rock music – find the time to catch this show.
Written by Kath Galasso
OurVinyl | Contributor
When I Was Young
Inside Looking Out
Spill the Wine
Riding on the Bo Diddley Special
It’s My Life
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Before You Accuse Me
We Gotta Get Out Of The Place
(adding a chorus of Rivers are Rising)
Baby, Please Don’t Go
House Of The Rising Sun
Nobody Loves You When Your Down And Out