With its neon-clad marquee, the historic Kimo Theater in downtown Albuquerque is a sight to behold. From the street, the exterior is a blend of adobe architecture adorned with a Native American motif, ranging from faces to pictographs. The interior is even more ornate, and the theme follows throughout: each pillar and the walls and ceiling conjure feelings of entering a sacred, rather than performance, space.
With the approaching all hallows eve, this past Thursday saw a strange band of monsters creep into the Southwest—monsters of jazz that is. Among them were a spiritualist, invoking structure with magical sticks and skins, an upright man who had octopi for hands, and two mad scientists holding degrees in the fusion of electricity and discord—namely Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, and John Scofield. This conglomerate billed as Hudson presented an unexpected twist to a number of soundtrack tunes from the 60’s and 70’s on the final stop of their thirteen-city U.S. tour.
The eight-song single set clocked in at about two hours and was composed of most of tracks on Hudson’s self-titled debut album, including Jimi Hendrix’s “Wait Until Tomorrow” and “Castles Made of Sand”, Bob Dylan’s” A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, and the Joni Mitchell encore,” Woodstock”. Also included were the originals “Hudson”, “El Swing”, “Dirty Ground”, and “Tony Then Jack”. On paper, setlists have been standard, with only minor changes, such as the absence of The Band’s “Cripple Creek” on this night. As one would guess, being there each night was anything but standard. Hudson’s show was filled with those moments where the improvisation and changes would get so far out there that when the main theme or melody of the outset tune was referenced, many thought in reflection, “I completely forgot what song that was.”
In speaking to one fan who had been with Hudson throughout October, he stated that “this final night was completely unlike any of the other shows [he] had seen on the tour”, and went on to explain that he felt that “the band probably omitted Cripple Creek so that they could further stretch out the rest of the tunes.” This aspect was reflected in the onstage setlists with “Cripple Creek” crossed out. When asking Medeski about the use of a standard set, he remarked, “By using an unchanging setlist, we are able to keep the focus on improvisation rather than making decisions on stage. Improvisation is what we came here to do.”
Bending place and space, this septuagenarian shaman showed that chronology is subjective as he swung, shuffled, and drove time throughout the evening, presenting patterns and angular dismay. This legend proves the theory that you are only as old as you allow yourself to be, handling the band’s vocals, both in song and backstories, while setting the measure and connecting visually and acoustically with the other members.
Whether on bow, standing tall against his accoutrement, or slumped over the body of the wooden beast, this man’s ability for chord forms on the fly seems more mythical than mastery. His ability to shift between the simple and complex provided the audience with delight, as Grenadier’s subdued affect, except for the occasional devilish grin, kept the audience’s focus on his hands, where the number of his digits is still in question.
Set atop his revolving pillar, Medeski revealed his prowess for the hypnotic and jarring on the Hammond, as well as skilled sublime power on the grand, with often a hand on both as he mixed his aural concoctions. His glimpses under stern brow across the stage to his fellow magicians reflected both his intent and madness. As leader and follower, this PhD of the psychedelic contributed to the invocation, in both singularity and the hive mind.
The bearded wizard began the set from his stooled perch, guitar in hand, as he watched the cohort open the benediction of the performance. When he finally descended, six-string staff in hand, unleashed were heads and improvised incantations that had the sorcerer under closed eyes, swaying with swirling alchemy, and mouthing the chant of notes his fingers were transcribing.
When the lights finally came up, most who had arrived for the ceremony remained, their eyes widened and faces washed with expressions of altered states. Terms and phrases like “ridiculous, mesmerizing”, and “did that just happen?”, echoed throughout the auditorium as witnesses gathered in small groups recounting the performance. Using the term “supergroup” may be putting the experience lightly, but that stated, it is unsure that this formation may tour again in this capacity. For those lucky enough to see Hudson, this particular night gave a new meaning to New Mexico’s moniker The Land of Enchantment.
Setlist: Hudson | The Kimo Theater | Albuquerque, NM | 10/26/17
Set One: Wait Until Tomorrow, Hudson, El Swing, Castles Made of Sand, Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall, Dirty Ground, Tony Then Jack