I was a huge Doobie Brothers fan in High School. (I lived about an hour north of what we call "The City" – Toronto.) The summer after my final year in HS, a friend of mine saw them in the city and came back disappointed. "You wouldn’t believe it, Bill. Tom Johnston wasn’t there. He’s sick or something. They’ve got a new lead singer. AND HE PLAYS PIANO, for heaven’s sake!" Actually, he probably used stronger words than that. I figured that that was probably it for my Doobie Brothers love. I was wrong.
Takin’ It to the Streets came out in 1976 – and I was blown away. The new lead vocalist/keyboardist was Michael McDonald and Jeff Baxter was on guitar – two former Steely Dan players – my all time favourite band. (OK, Fagen & Becker are really a duo surrounded by other great players.) I’ve been a huge McD fan eversince.
When Imbi and I were courting (now, isn’t that a quaint word), McD had just released his first solo album, If That’s What It Takes (playing on iTunes as I write this). I had a killer Sony stereo system in the Monte Carlo I drove briefly – and Imbi used to blast McD on her way home in it. (She worked in the neighbourhood I lived in – that’s how we met.)
Last night, Imbi and I ventured off the Island (with winds gusting and the boat not wanting to come off the marine railroad) to visit Casino Rama. We aren’t gamblers, but the opportunity to see McD in concert with his great band was too much to resist. The venue seats about 5,000 and was filled with a lot of older folks there to see Michael. (I’d obviously forgotten to look in a mirror before I made that comment.) Our oldest son, 18 year old Liam, had desperately wanted to join us, but as Rama is a Casino, the minimum age is 19. Liam will be with us next year – he’s been listening to McD’s Blue Obsession all summer.
McD began with Peace, from his great Christmas release – In The Spirit
Wondrous child of whom the angels sing
Know my joy, feel my suffering
Shining star make this love you bring
So bright that I may believe
That my way will not be lost
From now on, ’til that river’s crossed
My soul renewed, and my spirit free
In you I’ll find my peace
McDonald/Chapman © 2001 Genevieve Music
Church in a casino. Hmmm. The evening continued for close to two hours with songs that spanned McD’s career – from the Doobies to his latest Motown 1 & 2.
Michael has a great touring band with every member a standout. I’d have to say that this was probably the best concert Imbi and I’ve seen since Dire Straits back in the ’80s. Pat Coil was a standout on B3 and keys, Vince Denham was great on Sax, Yvette Preyer is an amazing drummer and singer, Lanice Morrison, a very tasty bassist, Bernie Chiaravalle made his Line6 Variax sound like many different "axes" & is a very good vocalist and the young Drea Renee brought the house down a number of times with her beautiful and powerful alto. And McD is definitely still a killer keyboardist with an incredible voice.
Highlights of the evening are almost too numerous to mention, but Yvette Preyer joining Michael on vocals for both No Love to Be Found and Ya Mo Be There were two of note. We were back in church with the last two songs of the night, Ya Mo and then an eight minute gospel intro to Takin’ It To The Streets. Pat Coil’s B3 sent shivers up my spine and the band definitely made a joyful noise before McD and Drea had us on our feet singing along with them. (Pat is a buddy of my oft mentioned friend and sax virtuouso, George Furlow and has played on a number of George’s tracks.)
We made it back to the Island around 1am – braving the waves and the dark. It was all worth it. What a night. Check out Michael’s tour schedule at his website. If you’re even remotely a fan, you’ll have a great evening. Even if you have to experience church in a casino.
The McD shot is from a concert in Connecticut earlier this summer, taken by Anna Barber and "borrowed" from michaelmcdonald.com.