On Friday night, Little Feat fans turned out in full-force at New York City’s Beacon Theatre to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. Although there have been gaps in that five-decade history, the current Little Feat lineup has remained remarkably intact, with founding member Bill Payne on keyboards, along with guitarist Paul Barrere, percussionist Sam Clayton, and bassist Kenny Gradney on board since the band’s “Dixie Chicken” days. Fred Tackett, Barrere’s guitar alter-ego, regularly sat in with the band until officially signing on for Let It Roll, the 1988 album that introduced Little Feat to a new generation of fans.
Among the many guests on hand at the Beacon was the Midnight Ramble Band, an all-star cast of musicians whose home base is Woodstock, NY’s Levon Helm Studio. Long-time Levon bandmates and husband-and-wife duo, Larry Campbell and Theresa Williams, have carried on the Levon’s legacy, along with Levon’s daughter, the fabulous Amy Helm, and guitarist Jim Weider of the latter-day iteration of The Band. Kicking things off with a suitably blistering “Wheel’s on Fire”, the Midnight Ramble touched on The Band classics such as “The Shape I’m In”, while Amy Helm performed a powerful cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” Fortunately, several Midnight Ramble members returned later in the evening.
The energy level was high as Little Feat took the stage, casually jamming their way into “Rocket In My Pocket.” “Oh Atlanta” got the crowd on their feet before Larry Campbell and Midnight Ramble keyboardist and master accordionist Brian Mitchell joined to take things up a notch. Campbell added a sweet violin on “Willin’”, which was followed by a sing-along of “Don’t Bogart That Joint.”
Little Feat’s sound has always been difficult to define. The band’s original leader, the late Lowell George, sought an eclectic, stop-and-go mix of country blues and NOLA funk that distinguished the band from the Grateful Dead and their Northern California neighbors. On Friday evening, the cross-fertilization with The Band was on display, as Little Feat delivered a soulful segue of “Long Black Veil” into “The Weight.”
Joining the horn section for most of the evening was the legendary Lou “Blue” Marini, but as anyone who’s been to the Beacon Theatre knows, the chances of Warren Haynes suddenly appearing are generally good if there’s something special going on. Warren took the first verse of Sam Clayton’s “Spanish Moon” before it was all hands on deck for a rousing take of “Dixie Chicken.” The core band and Haynes returned for an encore performance of “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”.
Check out a gorgeous gallery of photos below from Friday night’s show courtesy of photographer Lou Montesano.
Little Feat continues their 50th anniversary tour on Monday, March 11th, with a performance at Rocky Mount, VA’s Harvester Performance Center. For ticketing information and a full list of Little Feat’s upcoming tour dates, head to the band’s website.
Setlist: Little Feat | Beacon Theatre | New York, NY | 3/8/2019
Set: Rocket In My Pocket, Down on the Farm, Oh Atlanta, All That You Dream, Rooster Rag*, Willin’*, Don’t Bogart That Joint*, Long Black Veil*, The Weight, Rag Mama Rag*, Honest Man, Spanish Moon^, Dixie Chicken^,
Encore: Feats Don’t Fail Me Now^
* w/ Larry Campbell
^ w/ Warren Haynes