Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents (https://www.dannyzeliskopresents.com/ )
Venue: Celebrity Theatre (https://celebritytheatre.com/ )
Date: Tuesday October 24th, 2023
Tour: Endangered Species Tour 2023
Tonight’s show couldn’t have had 2 different people’s approach to rock & roll music. Shawn Phillips utilized electronics to help him create the sound of a full band, while Dave Mason played straight up untarnished rock & roll with his band. I have no problem with either approach as long as the bands are honest with the fans about it. Many bands are required to use backing track, click tracks or synthesizers to product the music they created when the song was written. I mean it is impossible to travel with a choir to recreate the backing vocals required for certain songs to sound right. Also, there are times a guitarist might play multiple tracks on a song and the band either has to use a backing track or bring an extra guitarist. Purists might not like backing tracks but they are sometimes required.
I would also like to commend Danny Zelisko Presents and Celebrity Theatre for the outstanding community service they provide at their shared shows. If you are not aware, at their shows they get a guitar (or bass) signed by the artists and then auction it off. All of the money is given to St. Mary’s Food Bank, a local Phoenix charity. St. Mary’s Food Bank takes that money and helps feed the less fortunate people in the valley. With tonight’s show, Danny Zelisko Presents and Celebrity Theatre have raised over $60,000 which has gone to provide over 300,000 meals (5 meals per dollar). I believe we should all applaud Danny Zelisko and his people, The Celebrity Theatre, the artists and the amazing people that have so generously purchased these guitars. Please keep up the great work.
It was also a strange night. During Shawn’s performance, I saw a number of people leave their seats. Then just as he was ending his set, you could hear this roar from downstairs. It seems that the Arizona Diamondbacks just won their series against the Philadelphia Phillies and were going to the World Series. As the auction started, the people started to come back upstairs and the venue filled up.
It was also nice to see Shawn Phillips and Dave Mason down in the bar after the show signing merchandise for fans. Dave’s line was very long, so I talked with his wife instead. Shawn had a few fans getting stuff signed and so I ended up talking with him for a while. I don’t know which is better, The VIP package where you get to see the band/artist and get a signed item or to have the band/artist show up after the show to sign merchandise that the fans purchase. I understand why bands do the VIP, because they can limit the crowd they have to deal with especially for really popular bands/artists. For older artist and lesser-known bands/artists, I believe the latter works better, it also has a benefit of getting more fans interested and willing to come back.
Dave Mason is one of those artists that is just a mainstay in Rock & Roll history. He originally started out with the classic rock band Traffic in the late 60s. Later he joined Delaney & Bonny. Dave did a short stint with Fleetwood Mac and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Throughout his career he has performed with many of the greatest Rock artists including The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Donovan, Eric Clapton and Derek and The Dominoes.
Dave Mason is probably best known for his hit single “Feelin’ Alright” that he did while with Traffic. It is always interesting at one of his shows when he tells stories about his life and his songs. One time he told us that he played guitar with Jimi Hendrix on Jimi’s classic version of “All Along The Watchtower”. At another show he talked about his time with Traffic and how he started out playing bass, but his real love was electric guitar. He joked that early in his career he wanted 2 things, woman and a red Stratocaster guitar. He soon learned that once you got the guitar you had a better chance of getting the girls. At tonight’s show he explained why he went back into the studio to rerecord his classic solo gold album, Alone Together. A lot of artists from the 60s and 70s are having their albums reprocessed using today’s new technology. This new technology produces albums/cds/dvds/blu-rays that have more dynamic range and better Hi Fidelity sound. Unfortunately, Dave master tapes for Alone Together were destroyed in a fire at the major studio that had them in storage. For this reason, he had to go back into the studio to rerecord the songs.
On stage with Dave is his longtime band member Johnne Sambataro on guitar and vocals, and exciting new additions with Marty Fera on drums, Mark Stein on keyboard and vocals, and Ray Cardwell on bass and vocals.
They started with one of the great songs from Alone Together, “Only You Know and I Know”. Then they did a couple of classic traffic songs during Dave time with them. Of course, they did Dave’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. For an encore they let Mark Stein sing the classic Vanilla Fudge rock hit “You keep Me Hangin’ On”. It was amazing to hear the crowd singing along with this song. They ended the night with “Feelin’ Alright?”.
Dave always does a Traffic song that was done after he left the band, or as he calls it Traffic AD. Dave has a different take on “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”. It is completely different style from the Steve Winwood version. This was probably the only song that I did not like of the entire set. I love the original Traffic version and Dave’s version is just a little too strange for my taste. However, I loved all of the other songs of the set and was trilled to hear the classic Vanilla Fudge song “You keep Me Hangin’ On”.
I always enjoy a Dave Mason concert. I grow up listening to his music and the bands he played with. I still believe his solo album, Alone Together is vastly underrated and should be one of the top albums from the 70s. It is one of the albums that I have on my playlist in my cars. To see if Dave and his band is coming to a city near you, check out his media sites. Hopefully I will see you at his next visit to the Phoenix area.
Dave Mason Social Media sites:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/davemasontv
Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved
Shawn Phillips was a mainstay in the Phoenix area and Celebrity Theatre in the 70s and early 80s. He would perform with his band to sold out shows. I was lucky enough to see him a few times at the Celebrity Theatre during those days. I always loved Shawn’s music. He never played down to the audience and he wrote songs that contained multiple musical sections.
These days Shawn has taken a different approach to creating music. He has become a one-person band. He does this both in the studio and live on stage. I first saw his one-man performance back in 2016 at the Scottsdale Center For The Arts. Shawn came out and sat down on a chair. He was flanked on one side by a number of guitars. In front of him was a pedal board the likes of which I had never seen before. Behind him was this other electronic box that looked like an amplifier. Shawn picked up a guitar, fiddled with the pedal board and started to play a rhythm track. After a couple of minutes, he replaced that guitar with another, fiddled with the pedal board again and started to play another rhythm track. Then he changed to a bass and did the same. Each time the new instrument overlaid the others creating the sound of a full band. Finally, he picked up another guitar and started the lead section of the music and started to sing along. It was amazing to hear this one person recreate an entire band live on stage.
Fast forward to tonight. Shawn came out on stage and started the same way. After the first song he told us about how he does this amazing feat. He told us that with each guitar, he records the track live and then loops it as he goes to the next guitar. By the end he has created a full sounding band playing his songs. He told us the only pre-recorded track was a percussion track that he uses, everything else was created live on stage.
I have seen this done in studios where multiple tracks are recorded and then put together by the sound engineer, producer and band at the end. Pink Floyd was famous for doing this. But to do this live on stage was astounding.
It was breathtaking to hear this multiple looping sound encompass to venue. It truly sounded like a full band was on stage performing. Then when Shawn added the last guitar and started singing, he had the audience in his hands.
Shawn Phillips doesn’t do many live performances these days. But we are lucky enough that Danny Zelisko is a friend and Shawn will come to Phoenix and perform for us. If you are lucky enough to see Shawn, I guarantee that you will be impressed and will really like his music. You can find out more about Shawn on one of his media sites.
Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved