Politics take a backseat during Wheeler concert
It’s not often that Aspen sees the all-star, jam-style concert.But the all-star concert at the Wheeler Opera House Tuesday night, a benefit for Tibetan and Buddhist-related causes, couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time.While President Bush was delivering his State of the Union message, practically assuring the American people we will soon be making war in Iraq, a fleet of musicians took the Wheeler stage in a benefit for Colorado’s Summit Dharma Center and the International Campaign for Tibet.The concert wasn’t intended as a peace rally, or anti-war statement, and wasn’t timed to coincide with the president’s talk. There were no formal speeches even addressing the threat of war; the few quick talks mentioned peace in the context of Tibet’s struggles with China more than America’s showdown with Iraq. This was an event very much about the music.But if there was a quiet subtext to the evening, it was that peaceful gatherings such as this were a superior use of time rather than getting behind a war effort.Beginning with the opening performer, Aspen music icon Bobby Mason, many of the musicians made brief notice that they much preferred being on the stage singing than in front of the television absorbing the Bush administration’s war plans. The audience was vocal in registering its agreement.Following Mason’s solo segment, the Wheeler stage quickly filled with musicians. Local band Little Blue ? whose frontman, Steve Postell, a student of Buddhism, organized the concert ? turned the volume up with a version of “Gypsy Kings,” written by bassist Michael Jude.With Jeff Pevar, a frequent Little Blue collaborator, trading Spanish-tinged, acoustic guitar licks with Postell, it was one of the more memorable performances of the song.Postell and Pevar continued with a two-acoustic-guitar take on the Allman Brothers’ “Little Martha.” The tune not only demonstrated the impressive technical abilities of the two musicians, it also hinted at one of the night’s strongest elements, the thoughtful programming.With musicians shuttling on and off the stage through the night, and rock, r & b and folk roughly equally represented, there was potential for chaos. Instead, the concert was paced well, and the diversity of styles and plethora of musicians was an asset.Woody Creeker John Oates introduced his “All Good People” by saying he thought it a good choice for the event, and he was right. The soulful tune, like the majority of the songs, hinted at the night’s theme of peace and unity.Oates was joined on “Go Deep” by Paris Delane, the deep-voiced singer from soul band Sonia Dada; Delane then led the assemblage in a mostly vocal rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.”Little Blue then played two more appropriate choices: “Church,” an exquisite tune about finding spirituality in everyday life, and Damian Smith’s similarly themed “Love Is Where You Are.” Soul singer Hazel Miller and local Gillian Parsons added their voices to the congregation.The stage was then left in the hands of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jimmy Ibbotson and John McEuen. McEuen gave an element of levity with his jokes ? “My son said he wanted to be a drummer when he grew up. I told him he can’t do both” ? and antics.The two played an acoustic segment of Dirt Band favorites like “Ripplin’ Waters” and “Mr. Bojangles,” as well as “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” the most directly anti-war song of the night. (The song was written by Ed McCurdy, and not, as Ibbotson believed, by Tom Paxton.)With the show leaning toward tightness, and not the marathon jams that often mark all-star concerts, the one extended song had a chance to shine. And it did. A take on “You’ve Got a Friend” became a crowd-pleaser, with Hazel Miller taking the lead, and Bobby Mason and Paris Delane providing plenty of backing. And a jam centered around vocals rather than electric-guitar leads was a relief.It was a show of the night’s quality that a good portion of the audience was still around when the music ended somewhere toward midnight. It had been a marathon night, with a screening of the film “Himalaya” opening the event at 7 p.m.And for those who didn’t get enough, Little Blue will be joined at their gig tonight at Whiskey Rocks, by Delane, Pevar and saxophonist Richie Cannata. The show begins at 9:30 p.m.[Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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