Tonight's scheduled opening act was Los Angeles band the Belle Brigade, but the group was unable to make it to the show due to transportation issues. Filling in their stead was St. Louis' own Pernikoff Brothers, an acoustic folk rock power trio with Tom Pernikoff on guitar, Rick Pernikoff on harmonica and bass and Dan Germain on drums, with all three members handling vocal duties.
The Brothers play a sweet blend of catchy, up-tempo folk pop drenched in two and three part harmonies. Their playing tonight was top notch with Tom's guitar work shining brightly above the rhythm section. As great as the playing was, the vocals are what really stole the show. All three have excellent voices and the harmonies were on the mark and tight without sounding unemotional and over-rehearsed. Of particular note was their excellent reworking of the Led Zeppelin classic "Black Dog" into a bluesy jam with vocals that would have made Robert Plant wish he'd had them writing the tune. The Brothers Pernikoff were a fantastic replacement opener and gave a very enjoyable, fun performance to get the crowd ready for G. Love.
G. Love grabbed a seat at center stage and fired up the crowd from the second he started to speak, much less before the band kicked in. Starting the show with "Milk and Sugar" from the new album Fixin' to Die, Love and his long-time backing band Special Sauce ran the gamut from traditional Robert Johnson style blues to Grateful Dead style psychedelic jams, '70s blues rock and B.B. King-style electric blues and back again.
G. Love has always been known for his stellar live performances and tonight was no exception. Special Sauce was in prime condition tonight, with bassist Timo Shanko keeping the groove while flying all over the fret board of his upright bass, Jeffrey "Houseman" Clemens keeping perfect time and adding in some tasty drum fills and Mark Boyce handling the keys as if Pigpen McKernan and Cannonball Adderly were possessing his hands simultaneously.
I was especially impressed by the instrumental solos scattered throughout the set, most notably Mark Boyce's fantastic piano intro to "Cold Beverage" and the individual member solos in "Parasite." The band played a lot of old hits in a fresh new style, like an extremely fat and funky version of "Baby's Got Sauce" and giving the first half of "Things That I Used to Do" a tight electric blues gloss before finishing it up in the original jazz based format.
The show's encore was especially great, with G. Love performing "Superhero Brother" and "Booty Call" before being joined by the rest of the band for the new track "Smokin'", "Just Fine", "Fixin' to Die" and a fantastic cover of Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover."
G. Love and Special Sauce definitely delivered the goods tonight. I don't think a single person left the Pageant without a bounce in their step and a smile on their face.