For all the things they are called, Little Feat is a good old-fashioned rock band. Sunday night at the Egg’s Hart Theater, they played a great show — straight rock with some roots-type folk — packed with their pillar tunes to a sold-out crowd.
They are a collegial group who share the stage equally. Sure Bill Payne would point to a particular horn player when it was solo time, but the music – the jams – were an exhibit of community.
The beginnings of every song were the coolest. Take the opener “Spanish Moon,” sung by Sam Clayton. Here they played several rounds for a few minutes before the vocals, assembling themselves properly, kicking the sound around, feeling out the room and each other. No one out front, no apparent leadership, just the six of them getting pulled into the gravity of themselves. It went like this through most of the night.
When Fred Tackett took a nice long solo during “Day or Night,” the band circled around him to make a unified fortress of sound. Solos were vehicles for the band to huddle up, the strength of the band overpowering the lead.
They played the big, fun, funky ones like “Fatman in the Bathtub,” “Skin it Back,” and “Oh Atlanta.” It’s near impossible to stay still during these songs, even if your body isn’t moving. The audience didn’t jump out of their seat like they should — a few did — but heads and shoulders shook through the rows.
They traded their electric guitars for acoustics to play “Willin’.” You can hear them play “Willin” a hundred times, and they’ve played it at least a thousand — several thousand — but they nor we get tired of it. Paul Barrere led on vocals, and Payne took a sweet piano solo before handing it back to Barrere.
They followed with the classic “Long Black Veil.” They approached it like a Levon Helm tune, and then merged into a full version of “The Weight” to make their point more clear. Along with their funky rock tunes, they can nail that roots-folk sound. Here they traded verses, then Berrere and Fred Tackett faced one another to compare guitar licks, and then came together for the final chorus. They closed the circle by returning to “Willin’” after “The Weight.”
Toward the end of the show, they played “Dixie Chicken” with a draggy, slow groove that sounded extra swampy. It’s a funky tune – they have a lot of them – but this one hit the spot, like it usually does. The band left the stage midway through the tune for Payne to play some piano with drummer Gabe Ford. Payne got spacey, then jazzy, then both. It felt a bit rushed and cut short.
The band sounded best when they all sang together, their signature sound. The core members started playing together some 30 years ago, and they still enjoy each other—they each still pass more than shoot.
And for all their sustained success, they refuse to take themselves seriously. They play for real, but a tone of humor and self-deprecation courses through their music. “Rocket in My Pocket” was great Sunday night, they played it hard and serious, but at the same time, it’s hard to take Barrere seriously when he repeats the chorus with an earnest tone, “rocket in my pocket . . . no way for you to stop it.”
They had three horn players on stage. They weren’t necessary, but they were fun to have around, and added some extra color in a few spots.
The band played about two hours straight. No warm-up group, no intermission. That’s the way to do it.
Sunday night they gave us all sides of themselves. While it might have been an average show for the band members, average for Little Feat still made for a great concert.