The Other Brothers and Keb’ Mo’ close out Vail Valley’s summer concert season brilliantly
It was hard to choose which concert to attend Thursday night: Hot Summer Night’s last free show, featuring The Other Brothers honoring The Allman Brothers, or Keb’ Mo’ closing out the summer concert season at the Vilar Performing Art Center. So, I chose both.
The Other Brothers didn’t waste any time; they got the audience at the Ford Amphitheater grooving the minute they took the stage with a spectacular rendition of “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” followed by “Midnight Rider.”
The latter proved just how quickly this all-star lineup of Colorado musicians — whose skill have led individual members to tour with the likes of Derek Trucks Band, John Oates Band, Circles Around the Sun, Brother’s Keeper and more — can nail it. Not only could you hear how their jam during “Midnight Rider” gelled immediately, but you also could see it within the grins on their faces, as well as the response by the enthusiastic audience. When that happens, it’s like magic — and it consistently occurred with The Other Brothers.
Keyboardist Bill McKay’s soulful voice and playing — along with literally every other member of the band — caused one audience member near me to comment, “If you turn away and just listen, it’s like the Allman Brothers are up there playing.” I wholeheartedly agreed.
They took “Desdemona” to new heights, inserting bluesy soul into the jam, followed by jazz, then psychedelia before circling back to the lyrics of the song.
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My only disappointment is that I had to leave after The Other Brothers’ 45-minute initial set to catch Keb’ Mo’ at VPAC in Beaver Creek. I’m sure the second half, which started after a very short break, was phenomenal, particularly given the fact that it seems like many bands — and audiences — at Ford Amphitheater hit their stride as night descends. That said, The Other Brothers shined under the light of day, so keeping the vibe going at nightfall seemed like a slam dunk.
As reluctant as I was to leave The Other Brothers, I was definitely glad I caught Keb’ Mo’. He conveyed exactly what it takes to be a world-class performer. (And, at the end of the show, as I left the Vilar, I overheard people raving not just about him, but also about how opener Scott Mulvahill, whom I obviously missed, was equally “phenomenal.”)
You know that story about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for mastering the guitar? Well, I don’t buy it, but when I see blues legends like Buddy Guy and Keb’ Mo’ perform perfectly — and so joyfully — at advancing ages, I must admit: That story creeps into my mind, and I kind of wonder. That said, both of these artists have so much charisma and talent, that I figure evil couldn’t possibly be in play. Keb’ Mo’ (and Guy in 2019) were absolute pleasures to watch perform at the intimate VPAC.
Much like The Other Brothers, the crowd was revved up, and Keb’ Mo’ and his three band members brought the music and energy to get people up on their feet from the start.
His humor emerged quickly, too, in the form of “Government Cheese.” It was clear he and his band have fun with the lyrics. He further revealed his charm and humor through his storytelling songs, with lyrics like, “My old barbershop, still going strong, but it’s too damn bad my hair’s all gone” in “Good To Be (Home Again).”
And, just as he switched out guitars several times — from electric to steel to acoustic — so, too, did he change moods, from traditional, heavy-hitting blues to upbeat tunes like “Life Is Beautiful” — just one of the many songs that brought people to their feet, clapping in a very communal feel — to his humorous “Suitcase,” which he introduced as a “good tap dancing song,” in more ways than one, and performed, aptly, solo. Then, he pulled off a quick and entertaining tap dance during the hilarious “Old Me Better.”
He also highlighted his diverse musical talent through the lovely “Infinite Eyes,” off his Family Artist Series, “Big Wide Grin.”
It’s Mo’s positivity that shines, even as he fuses the traditional gut-grinding blues with optimism and beauty. As he pointed out: Blues is more about complaining, but he tries to deliver it in the “most positive and metaphysical way possible.” Songs like “Everything I Need” highlight just how rhythm and blues can blend to uplift the soul.
After getting everyone dancing with an energetic “She Just Wants to Dance,” he said he was going to “bring the mood down” with a song about single-use plastics, which he warned he might “botch,” but given how well even he admitted he was doing — from vocals to guitar to interacting with the audience — he jokingly said, “I might as well botch something up.”
At just under 1 hour and 45 minutes, Mo’ delivered a rousing show and encore, which included “Better Man” and “The Door,” proving exactly why he earned the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance in 2021 from The Americana Music Association.
All in all, Thursday night capped an invigorating summer of music in the Vail Valley. Here’s looking forward to VPAC’s fall Underground Series, which begins Friday, as well as the winter sonic season.