Hot Tuna brings classic rock and blues-based songs to TA

When the band dove into the sublime classic instrumental “Water Song,” the club was transformed into a spiritual house of secular worship.

December 26, 2010 21:00
2 minute read.
Jorma Kaukonen with Hot Tuna

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.

Maybe that’s 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.

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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 mandolin.

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 creating magic.

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