Auditorium, San Francisco
USA, May 31. 2003
Last Update: 03.
saw arthur lee at the fillmore. after walking out on him last time people
said i was nuts to go again but i figured he could only go up in my book now so
nearly sold out. no opening act. same band as before - baby lemonade -
but this time with a string section(3 violins, a viola and cello) and horns (two
trumpets and a trombone) because this was the "forever changes"
anniversary thing. baby lem is 2 guitars, bass and drums by the way. arthur came
out dressed same as last time - jeans, cowboy shirt, cowboy hat over bandana
head with wraparound shades he left on throughout. he walked on a little shaky -
to a huge hand (how many of these people witnessed the fiasco last time he was
shook his tambourine and launched into "my little red book".
couldn't hear the vocals or the lead guitar. fillmore usually has great sound -
what gives? people yelled, "turn it up", "turn the vocal
up", "up the guitar!". "all we hear is drums!!". i was
glad to see we had a somewhat savvy crowd this time. the morons at bimbo's would
never have even noticed! next came "orange skies", and still the mix
was a mess. it was like being at a soundcheck. mr. lee seemed tired but not
drunk and he explained, "i don't want to make excuses but i fell out of the
bathtub this morning and hurt my leg". as a result he was stiff the whole
night and as his pain killers wore off he seemed to have more and more trouble.
but he soldiered on and made jokes about it. he was the exact opposite of last
time. no rants, no speeches. not at all disturbing. quite charming in fact. next
came "your mind and we belong together" with the rhythm guy playing
the "getting better" riff on a beautiful fireglo rickenbacker 360. the
lead guitarist had a white (or cream) gibson 335. bassist had a fender precision
but he sounded muddy - except for when he used a pick which was only once or
and then came the entire "forever changes" album in sequence. i have
to say it was hampered by the bad mix and also by arthur's on and off key vocal.
but even so, with the strings and the horns it was absolutely incredible. people
were so happy they cheered mid song like in the mariachi bit on "alone
again or". the trumpet guy was so happy he raised his horn in triumph. the
next song, "a house in not a motel" was so well done it gave me
chills. "daily planet" (my fave song on the album) was also right on,
the drummer having a good time playing hal blaine's rolls. arthur played a white
strat now and then. no pick, just his fingers. he played well. the rhythm guy
played a 6 string gibson acoustic for the acoustic numbers. lee knew all his
lyrics with no help except for "old man" which he acknowledged was
written by brian maclean. but he had as much trouble hitting the high notes in
this as he did with "andmoreagain". he fared much better with his
dylan/hendrix voice on "bummer in the summer". also by now the sound
guy had his act together and the band was more warmed up. the strings where
tremendous - especially when arthur conducted. and the horns with the big march
at the end - that was magnificent. a very ambitious thing to try to play
this album on stage. they did a more than decent job.
he tipped his hat and went off to cheers and came back for an encore with
"seven and seven is". "is there a wheelchair in the house?",
he asked. someone suggested a stool. really, he could have sat down for
some of the songs. but he kept going. "i'm doing the best i can playing
guitar and trying to stand on one leg", he said with smile. "but i can
do two things at once!". next came the "everybody's gotta live/instant
karma" medley. finally he brought the strings and horns back for
"singing cowboy". in the end he limped off and had to be helped by his
guitarist. as i said his vocals were on and off - at times the show was totally
off the ground and into the stratosphere, at other times you'd wince. but mostly
it was great.
arthur, all is forgiven.