Canned Heat, Woodstock originals with their unique brand of psychedelic blues, were coming to Adelaide on their Australian tour and I was pretty damn excited. I’d been listening to some of their classics in the week leading up and I was hoping this was going to be a good show.
Doing some research before the gig, the interwebs revealed that the band has had no less than forty three members over its fifty plus years history! For this tour the line-up comprised the longest continuous serving member drummer Adolfo de la Parra, who was present at the band’s Woodstock set and another Woodstock original, bass player Larry Taylor. They were joined by John Paulus on guitar and Dale Spalding on harmonica and guitar.
What were they going to be like, a bunch of has beens or legends of blues and rock? They were billed to be playing the Byron Bay Blues festival after this, so I was expecting a good show. When I arrived there was a decent sized crowd forming. Adelaide blues stalwart JJ Fields warmed the crowd up with some classic mellow blues on his twelve string guitar.
However, the crowd was waiting for the main event. When Canned Heat came out on stage they erupted in cheers, and looking around I noticed the place had suddenly filled up. The band knew what the fans wanted and they launched straight into their hit On The Road setting the crowd boogieing along.
Dale Spalding was grinning from ear, enjoying the feedback from the crowd. Next off was Same All Over. After this, Adolfo joked with the crowd about the next song being about magic mushrooms, alluding to the bands psychedelic roots in the summer of love before launching into a extended instrumental piece with wailing harmonicas, deep bass and psychedelic guitar solos.
Next track was Shake It Don’t Break It, and after that they slowed it down a little, moving into another instrumental piece with a more ragtime mellow feel. I noticed the pungent odour of marijuana in the air as some of the punters tried to capture the vibe of the summer of love.
Moving along with the theme of peace and love they played their monster hit and unofficial Woodstock theme song Going Down The Country. The crowd was in full swing by now, having loosened up and were dancing and jiving away. They band were really polished, as you would expect, and you could see they still had the love and passion for their art. Purists might prefer to see original line ups, but for me I think having some changes in personnel can keep bands fresh and enthusiastic.
Now the crowd was warmed up they took it up a notch, moving from the peace and love of Woodstock to the darker call to arms The Worlds in a Tangle. John Paul showed off his guitar skills with some superlative solo work. Some more blues instrumental work followed this and every member of the band got to showcase their talents.
I started to lose track of the songs they were playing by this point as I was too busy dancing and grooving to the music, but I do remember hearing Future Blues and Rolling and Tumbling. The band finished off their set with some boogie woogie freestyling with solos from every member of the band, finally leaving the stage to the sound of rapturous applause.
It was pleasing to see such an iconic band still going strong. I’m going away for Easter on a road trip, and I think know what will be cranking in the car stereo!
Live Review by Jeremy Watkinson