Old blues is good news when Eric Burdon brings rockin’ Animals to town

Eric Burdon

Eric Burdon

By Roger LeLievre
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Mar. 14, 2014)
Sometimes you have to make allowances for age or infirmity when older rock and rollers revisit their glory days. Not so with 1960s-70s blues-rocker Eric Burdon, who put on a masterful show Thursday night at the Michigan Theater.

It was clearly flashback time for many of those in the audience. Psychedelic organ riffs swirled as fans shouted out the lyrics or sang along to old favorites like “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “We Gotta Get Outta This Place.”

“I’m an old hippie,” the woman next to me confided, and she wasn’t alone. Her pal even brought a couple of old Animals 45 rpm singles and a silver pen to see if she could get them signed.

The concert was part of the Michigan’s Legends of Rock series, and if anyone qualifies to be part of that group it’s Burdon, who rode the wave of the British invasion with The Animals and later found chart success with War.

He earned standing ovations for “It’s My Life” and – not surprisingly – the well-known “House of the Rising Sun,” and came back for two encores, closing with John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” a full-tilt boogie version that had much of the crowd on their feet and dancing along.

Another high point was “Spill the Wine,” from his War days, with keyboardist Teresa James playing the flute parts and dancing mischievously around the singer.

Not content to be a mere oldies act, however, Burdon also offered a few songs, including the superb slow jam  “Wait” and the bluesy “Bo Diddley Special,” from the new and critically-praised “Til Your River Runs Dry.”

Surrounded by a crack seven-piece band, the current incarnation of The Animals, Burdon acted and sounded way younger than his 72 years. There was no mistaking that seductive growl as he worked his way through “When I Was Young” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” And speaking of the band, the crazy talented Red Young on Hammond B3, as well as Billy Watts and Eric McFadden on guitar, sent me right to my musical happy place.

All in all, Burdon and the band played for about 90 minutes.

Sure, there were songs that weren’t included, among them “San Franciscan Nights,” “Sky Pilot,” “Monterey” and “Baby Let Me Take You Home.” But nowhere was this billed as a greatest hits show. It served as a great career overview and included new tunes that proved Burdon hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to making blues that rock.

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