Concert review and setlist: Little Feat doesn’t fail at Old Rock House, Sunday, June 26

Little Feat 2007 by Hank Randall / Hank Randall

The melting pot location between the north and south partly explains the appreciation running deep among local music fans for Southern-style rock. Little Feat — with its mix of blues, country, rock and Cajun — is one of several ’70s bands that have kept St. Louis entertained for 40 years.

As its tour schedule and the buses and large semi-trailer parked on Hickory St. outside the Old Rock House last night indicate, Little Feat does not fall into the category of groups with one original member backed by hired guns playing the casino circuit solely looking for a paycheck. Formed in 1969, the band of engaged musicians still writing original material boasts one original founding member (Keyboard player Bill Payne) and three members (guitarist Paul Barrere, bassist Kenny Gradney and percussionist Sam Clayton) who joined in 1973 in time for the band’s third album and first classic slab of vinyl, Dixie Chicken. Guitarist Fred Tackett, a “newer” member, joined in 1988 and while the passing of original drummer Richie Hayward last year leaves a void, timekeeper Gabe Ford fills it solidly.

Proverbially dipping their toes in the water, Little Feat began the evening with a short instrumental warm-up to set the levels before launching into one of the songs everybody came to hear — “Dixie Chicken.” A deep catalog and some fine live chops allow the band to get past playing such classics solely as encore pieces these days. While four members of the current sextet played on the original track, the group moved out of the shadow of co-founder Lowell George long ago as Barrere took on the role of stage band leader.

Without a recent studio album full of originals to promote, the setlist relied heavily on the band’s ’70s output as two-thirds on the tracks came from the band’s first seven albums. Though, Payne duly noted early in the set that the band is currently working on a new album, the audience used these new songs as drink and smoke breaks.

Armed with a fleet of Fender Stratocasters, Tackett and Barrere weaved intricate, extended solos without extensive noodling while taking much of the lead vocal work. Though, Clayton added his well-worn blues style vocals to new track “Mellow Down Easy” as well as classic Feat number “Feel the Groove.” Both a writer and singer, Payne took the mic for new song “Mellow Down Easy” and his older Feat numbers.

Turning the Southern rock/blues down for a bit, Tackett grabbed his mandolin while Barrere slung his acoustic over as the band played “New Dehli Freight Train” from Time Loves a Hero. A beautiful version of their country rock standard “Willin’” moved into a cover of The Band classic “The Weight” with Barrere on vocals backed by shaky help from the audience.

Toward the end of the main set, a trumpet player took the stage to add color to classic tracks from Feats Don’t Fail Me Now numbers “Spanish Moon,” “Skin It Back” and “Oh Atlanta.” Besides an extended version filled with great guitar work of the main set closer, “Let It Roll,” the remaining studio albums the band has recorded since reforming in 1988 were left untouched. Placed as an encore, Barrere’s “Hi Roller” from Time Loves a Hero became an extended bluesy rock jam ending the night for the sweaty, free-form dancers.

This music on a hot summer night couldn’t have been more perfect for the audience comprised of graying men filtering through the venue in beach apparel gathering drinks for their sun-soaked, leathery-skinned women in tank tops and sandals, Yet, personally, I have yet to understand why people pay money to go to concerts and then talk through the performances, but last night the crowd topped even this pet peeve.

I was befuddled and bewildered that people would pay $35 to see a show then proceed to sit outside on the patio nearly the entire evening. Yes, you could hear the band playing outside as the doors were open and smokers were there of course, but many patrons set up camp at the tables and essentially never moved. However, after I ventured outside for a respite from the muggy conditions inside they couldn’t be completely blamed. A nice breeze would kick up occasionally and the waitresses filled drink orders. Luckily, the rain held off until after midnight; otherwise it would have been downright hot and crowded inside. Expendable income for such entertainment must be nice.

Back for its third show at the Old Rock House in the last 15 months, Florida-based Roy Jay Band, played a 53-minute set of 7 songs of extended the rock jams with paradise-styled lyrics. The sextet, though not solely touring exclusively with Little Feat, has played a number of shows this year with the classic rock stalwarts. Professing their love for the venue and the ribs on Facebook, they’ll likely be back again soon.

Little Feat setlist (asterisk indicates additional horn player)

Dixie Chicken
Mellow Down Easy
Blues Keep Coming
Fat Man in the Bathtub > Abba Zabba > Fat Man in the Bathtub
New Delhi Freight Train
Willin’ > Don’t Bogart That Joint > The Weight > Willin’
Church Falling Down
Feel the Groove
One Breath At A Time
Spanish Moon* > Skin It Back*
Oh Atlanta*
Let It Roll*

Hi Roller