David Clayton-Thomas concert review by Robert Rheubottom
Canada Music Examiner November 9, 2011
David Clayton-Thomas hit town last night (11/8/11), making his debut appearance at McPhillips Street Station, and his first in Winnipeg since his show at the Red River Exhibition grounds back in 2009.
Though performing only a handful of live gigs in the interim years, the former lead vocalist/songwriter extraordinaire for Blood, Sweat and Tears has kept plenty busy since his last stop, penning an autobiography called “Blood, Sweat and Tears, releasing 2 new CDs – The Evergreens and Soul Ballads, receiving a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2010, and, most recently, making a 2nd appearance last month on CBC TV’s Cover Me Canada.
Clayton-Thomas entered to rousing applause, still looking youthful for his years, sporting a charcoal grey suit, blue open collar dress shirt, and matching suspenders.
Although maintaining the “must play” hits, the Grammy Award winner varied the set list from his previous visit, opening with the 1-2 punch of his self-penned, 1968 BS&T smash Spinning Wheel, followed by his 1970 Carol King/Gerry Goffin penned hit “Hi-De-Ho.”
The Canadian Music Hall of Famer’s voice, though huskier, is instantly recognizable.
The songs lacked none of his trademark power and emotion. The former BS&T frontman is still fully capable of wringing every ounce of emotion out of a slow blues, flexing his vocal muscle on a pop rocker, or scatsing through a jazz number with the best of them.
His super tight 10-piece backing band, consisting of some of the finest jazz players in Canada, demonstrated their impressive chops throughout the night, and were given plenty of solo room such as on the DCT song “Mornin’ Blues” from his 2009 release Spectrum,that featured a fine baritone sax solo from Colleen Allen. Demonstrating great rapport with the audience, Clayton-Thomas told many entertaining anecdotes about the background of some of his biggest hits.
Introducing BS&T’s 1969 Laura Nyro penned hit “And When I Die,” he explained how he met the then totally unknown singer-songwriter, who sat at the piano and tried to interest him in a few of her “unrecorded” songs, and proceeded to pick his jaw up off the floor after being played “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stone Cold Picnic,” “Eli’s Coming,” and “When I Die” – future smash hits for the 5th Dimension, Three Dog Night, and, of course BS&T.
A tale of “losing his ass” in Vegas after BS&T played a 7 night engagement at Caesar’s Palace, preceded his punchy 1971 hit “Go Down Gambling,” followed by a song inspired by car accident in Wawa, ON, which marooned the band for a week and led to meeting “a bad ass woman” – the prelude to his 1970 hit “Lucretia McEvil,” which featured some fine scats singing by DCT and a wicked tenor sax solo by Michael Stuart.
A soulful cover of Sam Cooke’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” from DCT’s 2010 studio album Soul Ballad, preceded the funky drunky “Gimme That Wine.” (a personal fav).
In the home stretch, his tender ballad “You’re the One,” a song he wrote for his former wife, preceded his 1969 BS&T monster hit – “You Made Me So Very Happy” and, following a thunderous standing ovation, DCT returned and finished the night with a stirring reading of Billie Holliday’s “God Bless the Child.”