2009 Montreux Jazz Festival : Chickenfoot, Dave Matthews Band, Steely Dan
Still, Matthews has undeniable star power of a special sort beyond his considerable singer-songwriter capabilities. Judging from the unavoidable estrogen flares, he could easily be a mischievous pied piper to women. When he repeated a murmured lyric about oral sex, the sweltering, sweaty scene was not the worst place you could get squeezed into.
On a strictly technical front, "Ants Marching," from the breakthrough Under the Table and Dreaming (RCA, 1994), built to a volcanic, crowd-shaking crescendo that may be unmatched for the rest of the festival.
"Funny the Way It Is," a new song getting the most current airplay, showcased the group's amazing ability to mix pop and jam band traits into lengthy, multi-levelled hooks. The fact that Matthews projects thoughtful humanity near the level of Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young is a rare artistic asset, but he is also a humorous, engaging guy to watcha fine ambassador indeed.
Matthews described his repertoire as "country music" with tounge in cheek, while Tinsley consistently backed up that somewhat misleading assessment with fantastic fiddle work on songs like "Spaceman," no matter the range.
There was an interesting balance of performing style polarities. Tinsley took a few steps out for solo grooves in front of Beauford's thunderously elevated kit as a dramatic silhouette before the gigantic, glistening percussion pieces. Generally, the band remained as close to initial positions as palace guards while Matthews jerked spastically across the stage from man to man. It was hard to tell if he was hyper-channeling an old school Joe Cocker or just screwing around.
Whatever the case, the music was magical and often touching on more than one level. Matthews wrote "Alligator Pie," a Hurricane Katrina-inspired ballad that resulted from one of his daughters asking when he would write a song about her. Maybe the key here is that despite this band's obvious skill and brilliance, they don't take their processes too seriously. The encore "Pantala Naga Pamps/Rapunzel" was another extended exercise in time shifting excellence as leads were passed around. By now, the group had already reached the top of the Alps, and there seemed to be no limit in the humid, full moon sky above Lake Geneva.
Is Chickenfoot jazz? No way, but if it was no problem for iconic organizer Claude Nobs, who showed up in a Jimi Hendrix Experience shirt, it shouldn't be a problem for anyone else. The thousand or so folks that retreated into the night prior to Chickenfoot's blaze of glory missed one of the festival's most pleasant surprises.
Many of those who awaited the past midnight starting time were happy just to find out what all the buzz was about, especially after a previously scheduled show in Spain was cancelled due to a biceps injury to drummer Chad Smith, also a member of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Expectations were very high for the relatively new band that also includes singer/guitarist Sammy Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony from Van Halen and guitar guru Joe Satriani.
Believe the hype. Chickenfoot were the life of the party as they raucously romped through almost every song from their self-titled debut. This crew will always be faced with comparisons to Van Halen, one of the most successful bands ever, especially since Hagar and Anthony did not depart on the best of terms.
Perhaps rocking well is the best revenge. Chickenfoot don't really create anything new, but that doesn't mean they don't kick some bombastic butt. Satriani and Smith actually match up against the Van Halens (guitarist Eddie and drummer Alex) very well, while Hagar and Anthony look like they're on a fun filled mission to prove something.
Satriani laid down a beautiful blur of power riffs that enhanced every song, while the rest of the band went nuts. Anthony's backing harmonies were Van Halen's secret weapon, and he was in good form behind the mike and laying down a thick bottom line. The wacky Smith bears an uncanny resemblance to comedian Will Farrell and frequently clowns around behind a Pearl Masterworks rig, but he also smacks serious skins, perhaps too seriously for his own good. After another show, the boys had to cancel appearances in Hamburg and Copenhagen to deal with his reaggravated injury.
"Oh Yeah" and "Future in the Past" stood out in a nearly 2 hour show of highlight after hard rock highlight. Those fanatics in the swarm who draped themselves across the front of the stage were treated to ongoing audience interaction with a band that was clearly having a great time. The mass of around 3,000 newly inspired maniacs loved them. The frenzy peaked perfectly during "Bad Motor Scooter," a song from Hagar's much younger days with yet another guitar hero, Ronnie Montrose.
Just prior to that Satriani employed a new custom Ibanez JS1200 axe, covered with fresh inscriptions.
"What you got there, Joe?" asked Hagar.