Deerfoot Casino, Calgary | February 22, 2013
When Jerry Doucette first came to radio’s attention in the 70s, his signature song “Mama Let Him Play” included the line “He’s too young for the blues, he’s still inside his first pair of shoes.” A statement of simple rock and roll fact wrapped in a tidy metaphor: youth is for reckless abandon and energy where life is experienced. The blues? How can one reflect on life when life has not been lived.
So now, all these years later and hundreds of pairs of shoes worn thin as he crisscrossed this country playing his brand of rhythm and rock, Doucette’s found the shoes that fit the blues, and he wears them comfortably well.
With a leather jacket hugging his six-foot plus frame, he looked more like a boxer meeting the media for a pre-fight conference, than the talented musician he is. Playing contrary to his appearance, Doucette was ready to take the audience through a quick paced journey, covering the major points of a rhythm and blues seminar.
Opening with a moody “Love the One You’re With,” Stephen Stills’ play on 60s love, Doucette and his crack band set the tone of blues cool. With a clean sound and a no-nonsense straight ahead drive, the band enticed the just past middle age crowd to find its groove, and wander through the spaces between the notes like bikers riding in formation, taking all the curves in perfect unison.
With harmonies tight, like leather on leather, the band shifted gears with Doucette’s own “Take Me Down the Road” and then “Back Off” with numerous guitar licks being traded back and forth, and here and there, stretching the songs to capacity and then reeling them back under control. Poised and confident, the band appeared casual and relaxed, and never slid into cheap theatrics.
A darkly thick “Crossroads” showed the band’s passion for the blues, turning the song into molasses drip that couldn’t be rushed.
A highlight for many in the audience was his signature piece, where the man of blues, looked back to his youth, turning the song’s perspective around. Where the original recording of “Mama Let Him Play” sounded like teenage angst, raging against the machine, the version tonight held the voice of authority, making a pronouncement for the inevitable. This wasn’t a tired rocker attempting to recapture a moment of youth, but a skilled musician looking at himself through the lens of time, and saying, ‘that was pretty good kid, but you missed some of the nuance.’
For Doucette, tone is everything. It’s not just about playing the notes, but finding the passion that motivates each note. On this cold winter’s night, Doucette showed that he’s a passionate player with extraordinary presence, who’s not afraid to play the blues of age and experience and heat up a crowd of willing participants.