Delbert McClinton’s true genius is his innate ability to take virtually any music style and make it his own. Blues, rock, soul and country were all on display Saturday night at The Madison Theater, near Cincinnati. While other performers try to genre-hop, McClinton is one of the rare few who do it naturally.
It certainly helps that he’s got an amazing band, led by keyboardist Kevin McKendree and guitarist Bob Britt. Dubbed the Self Made Men, these guys know just what Delbert needs for any song. Whether it’s a funky groove on Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” or a rollicking backbone on “Old Weakness (Comin’ on Strong),” these guys were in the pocket all night. Britt played a stinging solo on “Blues as Blues Can Get,” while McClinton showed that he can still play some mean blues harp on “Gotta Get it Worked On.”
Whether it was a 1930’s blues groove of “People Just Love to Talk” or a Chuck Berry-infused rocker like “Why Me,” the band was up for any challenge.
Delbert took a break about halfway into the show, allowing saxophonist Dana Robbins a spotlight to blow on the classic “Tequila,” then Britt came to the mic to sing the Joe Cocker arrangement of “The Letter.” Finally, McKendree led a honky tonkin’ instrumental before Delbert returned.
During the second half of the show, Delbert spotlighted McKendree’s 15-year old son, James, who played some wise-beyond-his-years tasty lead lines on both “Little Fine Healthy Thing,” and “Rebecca Rebecca.” And McClinton does have a fantastic new album out called Prick of the Litter – the barroom rocker “Don’t Do It” and the pre-rock, Johnny Mercer-styled “Rosy” showed off its diversity.
“Shaky Ground” and “Givin’ It Up For Your Love” were the last songs of the set, ending things on a furious note. The band encored with the slow “When Rita Leaves” and the spirited “Everytime I Roll the Dice.”
Delbert, who is 76, looked and sounded a lot younger. In a recent interview with Icon Fetch, he talked about how having recent heart surgery gave him a new lease on life. Well, it certainly shows.
Instead of dwelling on the artists that we’ve lost, we need to be celebrating the ones that are still with us. Delbert McClinton is still alive and well, and kicking some major ass. –Tony Peters