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“The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue”
Tommy Castro, Deanna Bogart, Magic Dick, Ronnie Baker Brooks

Live @ The New Lafayette Club, Bloomington, Illinois  - February 7, 2008

Concert Review by Rob Paullin

The electricity went out in Bloomington last Thursday night, but probably we should blame Ronnie Baker Brooks and 12-year old Matthew Curry instead of the power company, Mother Nature or some wandering squirrel. More on that in a moment…

Until then, it was so hot inside the legendary New Lafayette Club on Route 51 in Bloomington, IL on that cold, icy Thursday night, that perhaps even the snow outside was starting to melt. But then you might expect as much from a revue born two years ago in the Caribbean Sea on the decks of the tropical Blues Cruise.

The standing room only crowd at the Lafayette was treated to nearly four hours of smokin’ hot blues from San Francisco guitar whiz Tommy Castro, Baltimore keyboard master Deanna Bogard, Boston harmonica genius Magic Dick, and Chicago blues legacy Ronnie Baker Brooks, along with Castro’s outstanding backup band--and two surprise guests.

Castro opened the show with “A Good Fool is Hard to Find,” a showpiece number that let band members Tom Poole on trumpet, Keith Crossan on sax, bassist Scot Sutherland and drummer Chris Sandoval show their stuff on solo riffs.  He also offered up “My Turn After Awhile” and the Caribbean-ish “Wake Up Call” and a couple of other songs from his many CD’s, before stepping aside.

If there is a problem with four acts teaming up for a review, it’s that nobody gets to really establish themselves—Castro only soloed on five songs in just over a half hour on stage before handing the microphone over to Deanna Bogart, a star writer and vocalist in her own right.   She killed the crowd with songs like “You Got What it Takes” before abandoning her keyboards for her own saxophone solo on “Girl in the Band.”  Castro saxophone player Crossan stepped into the shadows for this one, before surprising and delighting the crowd by pulling a flute out of his sax for a quick solo.

J. Geils Band founding member Magic Dick was next, bringing a bag full of harmonicas to the stage for a too short set that included the jazzy “I’ve Got to Find My Baby” and the radio friendly J. Geils hit “Give It To Me.”

Ronnie Baker Brooks chased Magic Dick off the stage with the rockin’ “Can’t You See What You’ve Done to Me” before pouring some serious soul into the blusy love song, “Give Me Your Love.”  Brooks invoked the memory of his legendary father Lonnie Brooks on “Take Me Wicha,” a blues rocker that saw him wander into the audience to play slide guitar with the beer bottle of surprised fan Dave Long of Bloomington before standing up on a chair to pick out a solo with his teeth.

When he returned to the stage without missing a lick, somehow his guitar had found its way into the hands of 19-year old Bo Coleman of Mackinaw, Illinois, who then shared the guitar—the same guitar—with Brooks as they wrapped up the set.

It was time for a break, and we all needed it after nearly three hours of standing, dancing, singing, cheering and clapping.   And beer….  It also gave us a chance to meet and talk with Castro and his companions, all of whom seem to have an easy, up-close relationship with their fans.

Then it was jam time….

All four headliners returned to the stage along with Castro’s band for “Nasty Habits,” a blues pounder that features some outstanding guitar work from Castro and Brooks.  Bogard followed with “Unchain My Heart,” another opportunity for her to show off both her voice and her keyboard skills.

Then Castro explained to the audience that to keep their tour fresh, they often call the local Blues society in the cities where they play to find an up and coming guest to jam with them for a tune or two.  On this night, in this city, that guest just happened to be 12-year old Matthew Curry of Bloomington, who’s good looks and long blond hair will keep the girls screaming for years to come.

Brooks introduced Curry and explained they always ask what song their guest wants to do with the band.  Brooks told the audience the band knew they had a good one when Curry asked to do Albert Collins’ “You Talk Too Much.”  Curry, Brooks, Castro and the rest of the band then proceeded to suck the electricity out of the grid with a power rendition that even amazed the surprised Castro who could only stand and shake his head as Curry and Brooks traded licks on an extended guitar solo which brought the audience to it’s feet for a standing—and dancing—ovation.

When it was all over, Brooks noted that Collins was surely smiling down on everybody that night.   He then offered some advice to young Curry:  “Keep your nose clean.   Stay in school—it’s still show BUSINESS.  And don’t forget us when you’re rich and famous!”   He should have added, “...and don’t blow out the circuit breakers” because at that exact moment the power failed pretty much city-wide, bringing a too-early end to an electrifying four-hour night of snow-melting blues in downstate Illinois.

When Tommy Castro’s “Legendary Rhythm and Blues Review” comes to your city, get your tickets early or you’ll be shut out.   This one was an amazing bargain at only $20 a ticket, and worth every penny.

Reviewer Rob Paullin is a former Memphis radio guy . Rob has sampled the blues in Venice, Kyiv and Beijing, among other foreign haunts.  He says Berlin is next on his list..

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