When you think of Jorma Kaukonen, you don’t intuitively think of David Bromberg, and vice-versa. But they make perfect sense together, and Sunday night’s show at The Egg’s Hart Theater affirmed this.
Further, when you run into someone who likes “Jorma,” you can assume that they like Bromberg; and visa versa. So the crowd was not there for either one of them more than the other — as they typically are for double bills — but to see them do their thing together.
Bromberg opened the show by himself. Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff joined him halfway through the first set, and that sequence flipped for the second half of the show.
Bromberg started with “Sleep Late in the Morning,” the filled theater immediately handling the chorus for him right from the start.
“It’s been pointed out that I like to sing a lot of songs about women,” Bromberg told us between songs. “That’s what I like to sing about.” The women in his songs nag, drink too much, pay him little attention.
“I used to be a wise man, but this woman made me a chump,” he sang in the next song “Chump Man Blues.” Bromberg doesn’t win often in his songs – “Ain’t it sad to see how far a man can fall.” He loses with women, he loses at cards, he loses at jobs. You feel like he’s letting you in, but at the same time you feel he’s talking about all of us.
He generally alternated between his storytelling folk tunes and his aggressive blues, ending his solo portion of the show with “Come On Into My Kitchen.”
He did some decent picking, including some slide playing, like during “Maple Leaf Rag.” But he saved the good stuff for when Jorma and Mitterhoff joined him.
The three of them, side by side in chairs, played nicely within each other, rarely over or under the others, but mostly between. The politeness was overdone at first, but they soon loosened and began stepping up when so moved.
Kaukonen chose mostly traditional blues, picking through the chords and gently warping notes on his solo, always selecting surprises, like his quick riffs on the low strings at the end of the neck, a kind of melodic grumbling. His solo portion, though, was mostly his softer, thoughtful tunes, including his old instrumentals.
One of Bromberg’s strongest leads was during “Hesitation Blues,” sung by Jorma. Bromberg bent and plucked notes out of nowhere, nailing one high note that stung.
Jorma opened his portion with a wonderful, sad version of “Too Many Years,” Mitterhoff next to him on the mandolin. Through their set they journeyed a bit on the solos, like during the bouncy but solemn “I’ll Be Alright Someday” and an energized version of “I Know You Rider.”
He did a new one called “Things that Might Have Been,” a fantastically slow, gentle song that offered some life lessons and confessions.
Mitterhoff was always tasteful on the mandolin solos, but he never surprised us, and he grew increasingly predictable. Still, his playing offered a beautiful layer over his partners.
Both Bromberg and Kaukonen are deeply endeared by their fans, in different ways. After this tour — Bromberg called it his longest tour in 30 years — they might be thought of as a pair.
The theater’s director, Peter Lesser, who typically says very little when he introduces the acts, encouraged the capacity crowd to contact the governor and their legislators to put funding back into the budget to support The Egg.