Hot Tuna guitarist 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hot Tuna quickly got down to the business of making music Wednesday night at
Reading 3 in Tel Aviv in a show that almost didn’t happen. Snow storms in Europe
causing flight cancellations and lost instruments courtesy of the airline were a
couple of the behind the scenes gaffes that threw the seminal 1970s
blues/folk/rock jam band’s debut Israel show in jeopardy.
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why when guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady, the founders of Hot
Tuna and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members of The Jefferson Airplane, walked
onto the stage with their mates, guitarist/mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff and
drummer Scooter Warner, they were smiling. They were all there! And the smiles
never left their faces during the two hour plus show which proved that roots
music will never go out of style.
The four-piece band entertained each
other and the full house at the club – some bearing Hot Tuna vinyl – with a
potent mix of acoustic guitar/ mandolin picking and down and dirty electric
blues rock. Constantly making eye contact with each other and listening to the
interplay, the musicians seemed to be having a ball onstage – and their
enthusiasm was contagious.
Vintage standbys like the traditional
folk-tinged “I Know You Rider” and the raunchy “Rock Me Baby” sounded fresh and
vital, propelled by some righteous jamming and solos from all the stringed
players. Casady, in particular, was a joy to watch with his arched
eyebrows and sudden dance steps around the stage.
But it was Kaukonen who
was the focus of the show, with his fat electric leads, his nimble acoustic
picking and his still-supple singing. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee
was presented near the end of the show with a surprise 70th birthday cake with
“Mazal Tov” written in icing, and a raucous rendition of “Yom Holedet Sameach”
from the appreciative crowd.
Some of the more conventional material – as
expertly played as it was – sounded like it could have been recreated by any
decent blues-rock bar band. But Hot Tuna thrived when it veered to the margins
and stressed its folk and country history with Kaukonen picking his plugged-in
red Gibson acoustic and Mitterhoff playing lightning fills on
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And on the final song of the night at the end of two encore
sets, when the band dove into the sublime classic instrumental “Water Song,” the
club was transformed into a spiritual house of secular worship. It was a moment
that transcended the boogie vibe permeating most of the show, and proved that
despite their age – or maybe because of it – Hot Tuna is still capable of
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