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sledding

Allen Toussaint, Knoxville, TN, April 14, 2010

I play quite a bit of Allen Toussaint's music on my radio program, and so a couple of weeks ago I was playing a cut from his new album, The Bright Mississippi, when Patrick called to tell me that Toussaint would be playing at the Orange Peel in Asheville on April 15. Damn, I told myself, I'll be on the way to the Foreign Language conference then, so I won't be able to go. The Orange Peel is a mid-sized venue where I'd seen Maceo Parker, and other acts. Dommage, because Toussaint ain't no spring chicken, and who knows how many chances I may have to see him. So a day or so later, on impulse, I decided to get on the interstate, I mean internet, and figure out where his tour was taking him. I thought, who knows? Maybe he'll be playing in Lexington while I'm there. I found out that he was to play the Bijou Theater in Knoxville the day before going to Asheville. Perfect, I could break the trip to Lexington into two parts, add another night to the trip, and see Allen Toussaint. And this is what I did.

The theater is nice, like an old opera house with balconies. Much nicer than the Orange Peel, which has no pretensions of elegance, and just a big open floor.

Toussaint was charming. He did the show by himself, no band, sitting at the grand piano. His between song banter was funny and interesting. He would play chords and talk. Then he would do a song. He played some material from the new album, "St. James Infirmary" and another one, I forget which. He did old favorites like "Yes We Can" (a big hit for Lee Dorsey) and "Southern Nights" (a hit for Glen Cambell). He did some Mardi Gras music, and showered the crowd with notions taken from a bag.

His New Orleans style piano playing is as great as ever; his singing, while not great, is good enough. His demeanor is endearing, and all-in-all, a good concert.

He's a member of the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. Yet, still the venue was only half full.

See Allen Toussaint if you get the chance.

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