Concerts of the year Voice of the Wetlands, Keb’ Mo’ rise to the top | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Concerts of the year Voice of the Wetlands, Keb’ Mo’ rise to the top

Tim Parsons
Lake Tahoe Action

Consider the great number of outstanding musical concerts in 2011 and it would be arbitrary, outlandish and ostentatious to pick the best of the year. That’s the way we roll at Lake Tahoe Action.

The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars had North Shore’s concert of the year. It was Keb’ Mo’ at South Shore.

A quintessential “supergroup,” the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars comprise solo artists who have banded to try fight the environmental destruction of their native land. Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Johnny Sansone and Waylon Thibodeaux performed Feb. 12 in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room. Mike Zito (whose Osborne-produced album, “Greyhound,” is Grammy worthy) opened the show before he joined the All-Stars in the jam.

“It is sort of like picking your favorite child but in this case the child would have to be from New Orleans with the Voice of the Wetlands edging out Galactic,” said the casino’s manager, Bill Wood.

Sound engineer Blake Beeman seconded Wood’s selection.

“It was painless,” Beeman said. “All of the best players are comfortable in their own skin. It was very easy. They were relaxed, sounded good and you could hear everything. They were able to pay attention to the audience and not worry about what was going on around them.”

Co-founded in 2004 by Benoit, the band and organization’s mission is to bring awareness to the mile-a-day loss of southern Louisiana wetlands. Benoit was apolitical when he addressed the audience after the show. “It doesn’t matter who the president is,” he explained.

Earlier Benoit introduced each member as they took leads on songs. He saved for last Osborne, the charismatic, bearded, “crazy genius” – “Can Anders come out and play?”

Sansone described the show.

“It’s like a traveling jazz fest because it’s a representation of almost everything we have here and we can go any direction that we want. … Everything from cajun to zydeco to jazz, funk music and Mardi Gras music, and soul and R&B. It’s all there and it’s all represented in this show. It’s like going through a record collection and picking out whatever you want to hear. I get to play them with some of the greatest players on the scene doing this. It’s a really great experience.”

Another highlight in 2011 was the end-of-summer Commons Beach show with the Mother Hips and Beeman’s band the Beer Gardners. It drew a record crowd of 3,800. And Lake Tahoe Action’s Band of the Year, the Dead Winter Carpenters, broke the attendance record in the Crown Room for a free show.

Keb’ Mo’s Aug. 13 concert in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe’s South Shore Room was so flawless, he said he would like to return to the venue to make a live recording, according to the venue’s entertainment director, John Packer.

It was part of Keb’ Mo’s first tour with his new band – drummer, Les Falconer; Vail Johnson, bass; Michael Hicks, electric organ – in support of his first album, “The Reflection,” that did not include a blues track. “I call it soul Americana,” the artist formerly known as Kevin Moore told this magazine.

Dana Turvey in a review for Lake Tahoe Action wrote: “While each musician had his own chance to shine, you needed a tour guide to keep up with their expert instrument changes. One minute, the organ guy is running to the front keyboard, while the keyboard guy is strapping on a guitar and the guitar guy is grabbing his mandolin. Through it all, Keb’ Mo’ kept switching out his own guitar collection, still favoring his “workhorse” Hamer, which rather effectively picked up the red spotlights overhead.”


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