Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett are members of the best 1970’s band you’ve never heard of – Little Feat.
Little Feat’s enigmatic not-quite-Southern-rock was applauded by myriad rock n’ roll legends back in the day: Jackson Browne called late lead singer Lowell George “the Orson Welles of rock” and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant got in trouble at the Plaza Hotel for blasting Little Feat records at top decibels while on tour. But Little Feat didn’t achieve the equivalent mainstream fame of their rockstar ilk, remaining an under-the-radar cult favorite to this day.
Though the remaining members of Little Feat have toured as a group in past years, Barrere and Tackett also play as an acoustic duo under the moniker Paul and Fred. They played an intimate show Friday evening at The Rose in Pasadena with renditions of well-loved Little Feat numbers, obscure New Orleans R&B covers, and tunes rooted in old-school country, staying true to Little Feat’s reputation for eclecticism and genre-melding.
Fred’s mandolin prowess shone on the country-driven tunes, including Little Feat’s beloved trucker anthem, “Willin’” and a Johnny Cash Cover of “In a Long Black Veil” (originally recorded in 1959 by country crooner Lefty Frizell). Their experience was obvious: each song looked effortless yet the sound was layered and full, the two guitarists managing to somehow sound like a band of six at times.
They charged through an energetic cover of The Band’s 1968 hit “The Weight” and also gave a tip of the hat to the Delta Blues with the jaunty, innuendo-laden “Candy Man Blues,” originally recorded by Mississippi John Hurt. Not known for genre predictability, they also covered Lee Dorsey’s rhythm and blues number “Everything I do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On)” which was penned and produced by New Orleans songwriting legend Allen Toussaint.
The crowd was mainly aging Boomers, likely fans since the heyday years. Most remained seated, but one aging stoner in a tie-dye shirt grooved alone on the dancefloor, eyes closed and fully immersed–perhaps transported back to the memory of his first Little Feat show. A younger fan danced with her grandfather, proving that good music transcends generations.
The duo retained the casual cheekiness of former rock stars, pausing mid-song during “Don’t Bogart That Joint” and wistfully proclaiming that “one of these days we’re going to able to spark it right in the club!” Originally featured on the Easy Rider soundtrack as a twangy pedal-steel country tune, “Bogart” was routinely played at Little Feat live shows to much fanfare and big-time jam band Phish carries on the tradition, regularly covering it live as well.
Paul dedicated “Sailin’ Shoes” to his daughter, who as a child had asked her dad to play songs for her third-grade class. “I said sure!” Paul exclaimed, and then chuckled, “I was high as a kite.” Already playing the intro, Paul realized that the very first line referenced a cocaine tree, and thus censored on the fly, subbing in “pecan tree” instead. His improvisation skills used in blues riffs seem to have come in handy here.
Closing with a nine-minute version of the well-known “Dixie Chicken,” the duo agreed to a no-fuss encore, poking fun at their age. Paul quipped, “We used to walk offstage, but that was before social security. Who needs to take those extra steps anymore?” and began an eruptive mishmash of mandolin and slide guitar which mellowed out into a jammy version of “Feats Don’t Fail me Now” off their 1974 album of the same name.
Little Feat was an eclectic 70’s treasure all the hit-makers were listening to at their prime. If you appreciate musicianship across genres and can look past the shiny 4/4 time most chart-toppers employ, you’ll want to delve back in time and give yourself a Little Feat education. Don’t miss the intimate acoustic shows Paul and Fred play for a glimpse at their greatness; they have a few more in 2018.