Leftover & Keller mingle on a new level in Memphis

Written by Josh Mintz / Photos by Josh Mintz

May 3, 2012

Leftover Salmon & Keller Williams
Minglewood Hall
Memphis, TN
April 27, 2012

 

 

It was a match made in heaven – two zany, bizarre, dance-frenzy-inducing acts on one bill: Leftover Salmon and Keller Williams at Minglewood Hall. There are times when openers are mere filler – acts stuck onto a bill just so the headliner has some extra time to get juiced before they go on stage. Not this time, though.

Keller Williams as opener left an interesting predicament. Some Keller shows take a little while to simmer…the consummate mad scientist, Keller has to get the perfect blend of gadgets, guitar licks and bass lines, and then the magic happens. So, as an opener, that time was cut short.

Ever the professional, though, he made the best of a shorter slot, and did what only Keller does – worked his magic. Despite the abbreviated set, Keller worked in everything that Keller does and is on stage: he looped, he crooned, and he covered. From the customary (and always fun) “Freeker by the Speaker” to a hillbilly take on Ryan Adams’s “To Be Young,” he warmed up the crowd.

It’s not often that the headliner sits in with the opener, but Keller’s not your ordinary table-setter, and when Leftover Salmon’s Drew Emmitt, Vince Herman and Andy Thorn appeared on stage, it wasn’t your ordinary sit-in. With Keller on bass, the band broke into “Born To Be Wild,” segued into a Thorn-led “Sweet Child ‘O Mine,” and finally landed back into “Born To Be Wild.” It was Keller at his best – putting unique spins on songs out of the great American songbook.

Leftover Salmon paved the road for the jam-grass of today. As the band commented from the Minglewood stage, they’ve been at this for 22 years. The band has only toured sporadically since 2004 and with Andy Thorn (who follows Noam Pikelny and Matt Flinner), is on its third banjo player since founding member Mark Vann passed away in 2002. In spite of and regardless of all of this, from the opening “Carnival Time” at Minglewood, it was clear this was no rotting fish. This is one tight band.

As the Salmon fired through their catalogue, the band showed their true team spirit. Every band member save drummer Jose Martinez handled lead vocals on at least one song, from the Drew Emmitt-led “Gold Hill Line” to the always fun Herman-powered “Euphoria,” to bassist Greg Garrison’s time to shine, “Gone For Long.”

But, while the solely Salmon tunes were great, the true highlights of the show happened when the band brought Keller Williams back to the stage.

As bands are apt to do at Minglewood Hall, Keller/Salmon opened their time together with the obvious choice – “Minglewood Blues.” Keller ran his guitar through a Jerry Garcia-toned effects pedal, but the true guitar hero here was Emmitt. As good as he is on mandolin (and fiddle), he’s a great guitar player, and he proved it to Memphis.

The band followed it up with an epic segue, starting with “Pasta On The Mountain” before dipping a toe into “Legalize It,” teasing “Fire On The Mountain,” and sampling a bit of “Hot Corn/Cold Corn.”

Then, the band shifted into a full-blown “The Shape I’m In,” the first nod of the night to the recently-departed Levon Helm. The song garnered clear audience support, and it was a unique take on the song. Leftover and Keller would eventually find their way back to “Pasta,” wrapping up a solid 20 minutes of wonderful music.

Thorn has filled some monster shoes, as Noam Pikelny is an utter beast (Matt Flinner is no slouch either). He drove the bus on the title track from their new album, the instrumental “Aquatic Hitchhiker,” which will surely develop into a fan favorite over time. His frenetic banjo picking was spot on, and it’s easy to see why he was chosen to hold down the banjo spot for the last couple of years.

Keller came back out to close the show with David Grisman’s “The Hobo Song,” which was a solid cover but didn’t really come near the magic the collective conjured up early in the show.

The encore merely iced the cake. Leftover and Keller went back to The Band – things started with an amazing “Up On Cripple Creek” –  touched on the Doobie Brothers with a few bars of “Black Water,” and finally brought the show to a close with “Wake & Bake.”

Leftover Salmon put on one of most masterful performances in Minglewood Hall’s three year existence. From start to finish, they had absolute control over the room. It’s always nice to see a veteran band who still enjoys what they do, and it was clear that Leftover LOVES their jobs.

 

Setlist: Leftover Salmon

 

Carnival Time, Steam Powered Airplane, Tu Nas Pas Aller, Gold Hill Mine, Danger Man, Out In the Woods, Euphoria, Sailing Shoes, Stop All Your Worrying, Light Behind the Rain, Minglewood Blues*, Pasta On the Mountain*, Legalize It*, Fire On the Mountain*, Hot Corn/Cold Corn*, Shape I’m In*, Pasta On the Mountain*, Gone For Long, Sing Up To the Moon, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Breaking Through, The Hobo Song, Cripple Creek*, Black Water*, Wake & Bake*

*with Keller Williams

 

Download an audience recording of this show HERE.

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to view more photos from the show by Josh Mintz