Column: New old-time music, it just soothes the soul

By SCOTT SAALMAN

“I really needed that,” I told Brynne as we left the Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indy.

We had experienced a brief dry spell since our last concert so “Ella and Louis — A Celebration,” featuring the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, served as a much needed fix.

For two hours, we were teleported to the Jazz Age as world-class performers Byron Stripling and Carmen Bradford conjured up Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald — supported by a world-class orchestra.

We returned to the present far better people.

The Pops show served as just consolation to the heartbreak we had just endured when a bucket-list concert, Randy Newman Live at Lincoln Center, was canceled because the 74-year-old singer-songwriter suffered a severe knee condition requiring surgery.

“Pfft. He plays the piano! He just needs fingers,” I moaned to Brynne. We had been looking forward to NYC since buying two tickets three months earlier. Therein lies the danger of committing so far ahead to musicians in their 70s, which mainly means almost anyone I want to see on stage. Old rockers do come with risk.

Live music is my only addiction. I can no longer reliably put an official number on how many concerts I’ve seen. I love entering Ticketmaster the exact second when tickets first go on sale just to see how good of a seat I can get (fifth row, center, James Taylor — how about that!) Sometimes I do it for acts I don’t even want to see — just for the fun of it (front row, Kanye West — forget that!).

In June, I took two vacation weeks to see seven concerts — 11 famous musicians/groups, all deeply rooted to the 1970s — stretching from Louisville to Indianapolis to Ann Arbor. We added The Pretenders in early July, for just deserts.

It was like we were on our own concert tour: The Summer of Scott and Brynne; Scrynne for short.

My buddy Brick Briscoe (WNIN 88.3’s mastermind behind “The Song Show”) messaged me the other day, stating, teasingly, critically (perhaps), “You do realize there has been music produced since 1978, right?”

Brick is an ambassador of music stretching the whole spectrum of genres and eras (yes, even music produced just yesterday), and I’ve learned a lot from his show. Still, it’s likely I’ll only buy seats for musicians from the decade I grew up in — the ‘70s. A recent notable exception being 41-year-old MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, who I watched in front-row rapture as she sang a heart-wrenching history lesson about racial violence and hatred in support of 2017’s jaw-dropping “Freedom Highway” release (the album should be taught in schools). The fact that her first name is the same name as my favorite Fleetwood Mac song is not lost on me. (FYI, Fleetwood Mac is one of the few classic rock bands that I have not seen. I hear they are touring without Lindsey Buckingham — forget that noise!) 

Here are highlights and observations from The Summer of Scrynne:

Another artist was checked off my concert bucket list upon seeing Ry Cooder in Ann Arbor. Cooder, 71, is #31 on Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 guitarists. I’ve wanted to see him live ever since first hearing his melting pot of musical styles decades ago. Hearing The Hamiltones, with their soulish, goose-bumpy, gospel-laced backup vocals, was, in itself, worth the drive to Ann Arbor.

We saw eight inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Jackson Browne (my fourth time), James Taylor (my third time), Steve Miller Band (my second time), John Fogerty (my first time), ZZ Top (my first time), Steely Dan (my first time), Bonnie Raitt (my first time) and The Pretenders (my first time). (I am surprised that The Doobie Brothers, opening for Steely Dan, haven’t been inducted — yet! Don’t get me started.)

Brynne witnessed her first John Prine concert (my fourth). As hoped, Prine stayed at the top of Brynne’s favorite concert list throughout June. We shared big smiles and knee-squeezes seeing our friend Jason Wilber backing up Prine on lead guitar. Watching the 71-year-old singer-songwriter “cha-cha-cha” off the stage during the final encore while Wilber and the band played out “Paradise” was the best show-closer of the summer. John Prine loves his job.

Chrissie Hynde’s high-voltage voice — even now, at 66! — blissfully rattled my skull during “Middle of the Road” and then, with trademark tough-as-nails, punk attitude, she flung her harmonica backward to the stage floor when the song ended. I’m happy to report that Chrissie Hynde still has brass in pocket.

The ZZ Top drummer is the coolest of the Texas trio to watch.

My favorite ‘70s musicians are now in their 70s, or close to it, yet they still sound the same to me. Sure, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen (the coolest cat to ever play the blow-organ) has definitely been reeling in the years (as the song says), but Donald Fagen still sounds like Donald Fagen.

The mighty ones behind the mic are getting older, but seeing and hearing them live makes me feel young somehow. Concerts are my fountain of youth. It’s only when I see musicians younger than me that I start to feel old — forget that noise!

And for the record, my dear Mr. Song Show buddy Brick: Cooder and Prine released two of the best albums of their long careers this year — so see, I am clearly aware that music has been produced since 1978.

Will Read and Sing For Food will have it 140th public benefit show 7:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 10, at Hedinger Beverage Distribution Center (Jasper), to benefit Strings, Inc. The WRASFF players will be joined by Johnny Nashville, winner of this year’s Next Act Astra Theatre Rock Lotto band contest. Admission: A $10 or more donation. Outdoor show, weather permitting. Indoors, if not.




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