Bandallamas @ The Barrymore November 11, 2011
Bandallamas played a benefit for Veterans for Peace on this Friday night. A large crowd assembled early to catch this supergroup comprised of Chris Aaron and Bobby Bryan on guitars, Aaron’s wife Lisa Bethke, daughter Abigail Aaron and mother Annalee Scully on backup vocals, Wally Ingram on drums, Pauli Ryan and Victor Delorenzo on percussion, Jimmy Voegeli on keys and Rob Wasserman and Richard Davis on bass. And these are just the core members of the group. (Read our feature story here)
The evening started off with Aaron’s mother Annalee Scully playing a couple of acoustic songs, the first of which I believe was entitled “We Were in the War,” a song to commemorate Veteran’s Day. Scully has a powerful and emotive voice; I’d compare it to an alto version of Joan Baez. The song was quite moving and brought the crowd to nearly a hush. She followed that up with an equally appropriate “Study War no More.”
Next up was the Chris Aaron Band who played a short set. Aaron’s wife Lisa Bethke sang center stage; another soulful and powerful vocalist with excellent command of her voice. Aaron’s guitar tone is exquisite, especially the tone of his cigar box Rose slide guitar. Drummer Jeff Cohen and bassist Steve Smith rounded out the group. This was a tight rhythm section, fluid and in the pocket. Aaron brought out his teenage daughter Abigail to join in on “There Are Times That We All Stand Up,” another fitting tribute to the Veteran’s Day proceedings.
Next Jim Schwall was brought out with Tony Menzer on bass, Clyde Stubblefield on drums and Jimmy Voegeli on keys. They played four songs, bursting out with Schwall’s “You Don’t Love Me Like That” featuring a smoking keyboard solo from Voegeli. It was a treat to hear Aaron and Schwall trading licks from the center of the stage. Schwall looked absolutely overjoyed throughout the evening. Playing with his own ingenious and firey style, Schwall is an excellent guitarist in his own right. The rhythm section just couldn’t get much more fun to watch with Stubblefield and Menzer, two consummate professionals.
A short intermission followed and then the Bandallamas took the stage opening a rousing rendition of “Steel Yourself” from the Eye to Eye album (read the review here). Bobby Bryan was front and center for the entire Bandallamas set and frequently set the house on fire with his lightning-fast soloing. Davis took a bass solo and the crowd erupted for him. To see Davis and Wasserman onstage together, along with the superb Wally Ingram on drums was an experience to remember. Throw in the Violent Femme’s Victor Delorenzo and the inimitable Pauli Ryan on percussion and this became a rhythm section for the ages. Bryan was welcomed back to Madison with a hearty response and he joked after the first song that he “misses us like a motherfucker.”
Throughout the Bandallamas set Bryan and Aaron traded guitar solos that were inspired and tastefully articulated. Standout performances were many but “Eye to Eye” really stood out as the dramatic piece of music, departing from a strict blues performance. Here the ever-stoic Wasserman blew my mind with a standup bass solo while Bryan turned in one of his more excellent guitar solos. Davis soloed again on “Sylvie,” the band’s fourth song of the set, before checking his watch and making a hasty departure. “Don’t Look Down” was definitely another highlight, Aaron seated at his lap steel guitar. Bryan was absolutely on fire for this one and the band built to an excellent climax. “I Love You” was another highlight, featuring the rhythm section and another enjoyable solo from Wasserman. The plan played an extended jam at the end.
After another short intermission Schwall returned to join the band for three more songs. There was a lot more jamming after the intermission and Voegeli was given the spotlight too for one of his songs. They finished with a rousing cover of “Satisfaction” and encored with another blues tune that gave Bryan one more opportunity to show his chops (and also make some comical faces).
The mix was excellent throughout the evening. The drums cut through like a knife and the low end was strong and clean. Vocals easily rode over the top, no small feat for such a large assemblage of players.