Brian Auger's Oblivion Express
May 15, 2009
Having your kids in tow on the tour circuit may not sound very rock 'n' roll. But, no doubt, organ legend Brian Auger doesn't give it a second thought. His drummer son Karma and singing daughter Savannah are helping keep Auger's seminal band, the Oblivion Express, on the road and surging like a bullet.
Opening their May 15 show at the Tangier in Akron, Ohio with Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man," the quartetcompleted by bassist Andreas Geckmaintained a funk- and rock-filled soul vibe all night. They revisited many of the hits that brought Auger to fame in the 1970s, including "Whenever You're Ready" and "Compared to What." Auger's right hand rarely stopped trilling the high end of his Hammond B-3 as the left comped on the additional keyboard set atop the organ or stroked the Hammond into hurricanes of sonic space warps. After most solos, the 69-year-old road warrior turned a sly grimace to the crowd, as if to saydid you fully dig that?
Savannah projected forceful, soul-laden vocals, punctuated by wisps of smoke or alarming and invigorating howls. Her voice acquired an Aretha Franklin warble on the Auger classic "Truth" and stretched Donovan's "Season of the Witch" into a haunting yet devilishly coaxing invitation into darkness. Karma had the diversity of his palms-down drumming technique on full display, lagging enticingly on "Indian Rope Man," keeping a steady tom-tom beat on "Bumpin' on Sunset" and working the drum set into an all-encompassing percussive dust storm on "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend." His solo chops shown through on "Whenever You're Ready" as he explored his entire kit, working in tasty cowbell shots and high-hat bristle behind his father's raging keys. A machine-gun drum finale closed the number. Geck plucked a melodic electric bass throughout the set, touching off single-noted flurries from the high-end of the neck like a guitar soloist. Stepping to the fore on "Happiness Is Just Around the Bend," he strummed his pedal-effected bass into a funky, Hendrix-flavored freak-out that tripped finally into thick, percussive smacks.
The Oblivion Express
Early in the show, Auger requisitioned a copy of his 1975 album Reinforcements (RCA) from an audience member and pointed out a leaping 5-year-old Karma and babe-in-arms Savannah from among those on the record's cover. He couldn't have known how prophetic a photo that would turn out to be. Reinforcements indeed. Never leave 'em behind, Brian, the kids are all right!