It’s not every day the dance floor at the Crazy Horse turns into a mosh pit. This phenomenon was no surprise. You could feel it coming. By the time the band was playing The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” the frenetic energy in the room was vibrating with reckless abandon and threatening to spin off the edge. Rumor has it this place used to have a reputation for catering to punk music. Call it a blast from the past as punk vocalist extraordinaire – Queen delphine – joined forces with the Eric McFadden Trio on Friday, May 27. The potion of punk potency overflowed only at random intervals, but when it did, it seized the room with an unrelenting grip.
We first saw Eric McFadden back in November as a member of Roosevelt Collier’s California Get Down. The guy is as iconic a rock star as anyone who has graced this stage – both in appearance and musical swagger. Cliche as it may sound, his guitar is an extension of his soul; a soul which embraces both shadow and illumination. McFadden is known widely as a star sideman who has played with everyone under the sun, elevating their sound to unforeseen heights. On this night it was a true privilege to soak in the pure power of his singular artistry.
Eric McFadden’s shredding credentials are no secret. The guy really is about as close as you’re going to get to Hendrix in this day and age. He unleashes these stream-of-consciousness torrents, luring the listener into a Bermuda Triangle of sonic wonderment. Prepared as you may be, it’s still hard not to be knocked off balance. What you’re hearing is only part of the equation. Channeling every note from head to toe, his body language accentuates the aural impact exponentially. What many don’t know is the caliber of his songwriting and how diverse he is stylistically. This was far from just a shred-a-thon.
The night kicked off with the dreadlocked sage doing a few songs solo acoustic. His delivery oozed with warmth and passion. His voice aptly represents an otherworldly being who has been around the block and back. If you feel the need for association, it draws a bit from his time playing with Parliament/Funkadelic. It also evokes a hint of Tom Waits at times. You feel like you’re mainlining a steady dose of funk-rock gospel. I can’t tell you I can recite any of his lyrics right now, but as they hit your ears, they ricochet off your heart. It’s noir blues, it’s voodoo Americana, it’s pulp folk. Whatever you want to call it, the overall effect is haunting, transportive, mind-expanding and pulse-raising.
If there exists the human embodiment of an Eric McFadden guitar solo, Queen delphine is definitely it. Born to be on stage, she is a plugged-in entity of unfettered, artistic expression. The petite blonde spitfire has this endearing shimmy and slide dance which goes perfectly with whatever happens to be coming out of the speakers. She isn’t just a punk singer. Delphine taps in to sultry soul, conveying a sense of longing that, given her alluring sexuality, can easily be quenched. She burns hot and unpredictable like a roman candle spraying sparks into the sky. Their partnership, on stage and off, is a match made in rock nirvana.
Then there’s the trio. Just like Jimi had Noel and Mitch, Eric has Victor Little on bass and Kevin Carnes on drums. He’s been playing with both for awhile, especially Carnes, and it really shows. Dominant as the frontman may be, any true listener knows the importance of these roles cannot be overstated. They are nimble, imaginative and seemingly possess 360-degree vision; distilling past, present and future into every droplet of sound. Their precision is both remarkable and natural. Little plays in a way where you can hear every single note plunging down a funnel, reverberating back and then presented on a silver platter. Spaciously funky, diligently jazzy, effortlessly soulful. It’s difficult for the layman to summarize just how exceptional Carnes’ drumming is. Sure, you can talk about the delicate touch, hypnotic flutter and complex rhythmic dance. Really you’re best served to just stand and bear witness. Surrender to the “Wow!”
When you play with Eric McFadden, being down for whatever is a prerequisite. Apparently the dude is not a fan of set breaks. Neither are we! This show established a new Crazy Horse benchmark, going from 9:45 to 1:45 with nary a pause. After beholding this high priest of rock unravel the realms of possibility, we couldn’t help but wonder why he’s not yet a household name. In a world of derivative music, this man is true original. He’s a shapeshifter, a chameleon, a mystic. In the universe of Eric McFadden, there’s a surprise around every corner, and we’re frothing to see what’s next.