Date: Sun, 05 Dec 1999 21:05:27 -0500
From: Chris Ness
Subject: Dan in Atlanta at the Red Light Saloon
Forgive me for being less than enthusiastic in this review. I really am thankful to see him at all. (Sounds like I am leading up to a "But,") But, I am a little disappointed.
My wife and I got there at 6:30 to stake out a place for the 9:30 show to find that the place wasn't going to open till 8pm. Figured they be smart enough to sell food and beverage to the dozen or more of us waiting. So we went next door to a boutique and shopped instead. Just as well. They eventually opened the doors at about 7 anyway. The admission was $15; or, as Dan said, a dollar a song. Not bad at all despite what my wife said.
The front tables were all "Reserved". Interesting, because I went in last Saturday afternoon to see about reservations and was told there wouldn't be any. Ironically, I got a table for two on the side wall at the front that had an unobstructed view (to begin with) of the stage. Beer and wine wern't too expensive, but was told they were out of a number of the food items. I got a Rolling Rock, a glass of wine and some blue chips and salsa.
The opening act was two women, one playing guitar and one a base; and a man playing violin. The evening had promise. Maybe they would back up Dan. The guitar lady said they would play until Dan took the stage. They actually weren't half bad, but the sound engineer was. The bass player bickered with him all evening about the sound. After about a half hour my wife said "They played that soung before". It sounded familiar, but they all did. I ordered some brie, "baguettes", and fruit for my wife who hadn't eaten before we left, but didn't want pasta or sandwiches. After a half hour I went looking for them and I went looking another half hour after that. The waitress brought them as Dan began to play. My wife pointed out that the band was playing that song again. This time I recognized it and she was right. 3 times! About here, a 500 pound man came and stood in front of me. I kid you not. 500 pounds if not 600. He didn't notice that he was blocking not just my line of sight, but the entire next table too. The owner of the club came to the rescue and found him a place one row back of down center where he could sit. To make matters worse the man chain smoked all evening -- much to the consternation of those around him. I guess if he quit he would gain weight.
When Dan got there the first group ended their set. But they packed up their bass and violin. The owner of the club brought them some chairs and they sat right in front of us; but at least he kept an isle open immediately in front of us. I went and bought a pitcher of beer so I wouldn't have to do anything else during the rest of the show (oh, right, beer in beer out). The house engineer came and moved the monitor speakers and mike stands to set it up for two. Dan was accompanied only by Tom Mitchell. They had tuned upstairs and went right to work.
The place was packed and in his opening patter, Dan asked where we all were about 20 years ago when he needed us. The crowd was enthusiastic but Dan really wasn't during the first set. By the second set though he had gotten comfortable and was much more into the music. The songs were the usual ones for the most part and that was fine by me. And there were a few to showcase Tom's guitar and manodlin work including "Caravan". Tom really is quite good. Dan acknowleged the bad quality of the sound reinforcement, but didn't nag about it, so the engineer didn't do much to correct it. But with only two people, I guess the show was more important than the music anyway.
Dan also acknowleged the 500 pound guy. I guess he would be easily visible from the stage. I hope that wasn't Drew or Scott or any of the regulars. I also hope that none of you guys were that wino looking guy that wandered in -- my wife says he didn't pay -- and stood in front of me till I asked him to move. When he abruptly sat on the floor. I mention him because the way he was poking his thumbs into his eyeballs was disconcerting (dis-concert-ing ?) to everyone in that area of the theatre. Maybe he was expecting "Crazy Like I Am"?) Dan started the first set with a yodeling piece that I've heard before but don't know the name and ended the set with "I Scare Myself" which sounded good in spite of everything going against it. I guess it is hard to spoil that song. He also played in no particular order (the pitcher was setting in) Peachpickin' Time, Canned Music, Cowboy's Dream, Capo on my Brain, Paycheck Blues, Lonely Madman, Vivando, Feel like Singing, Reelin' Down, Buzzard was Their Friend, and a couple off his new album variously titled including "Listen to the Music, Motherf@*ker". He got on one of his cussing rants and one couple with a preteenager left. I actually kind of felt sorry for Dan because it was inappropriate. Not shocking inappropriate, just out-of-place inappropriate. It just really didn't match. It was just sort of shoehorned in like a song included whether it fit or not.
It was funny going back over Drew's 1997 review of Dan at the Variety Playhouse over in Little Five Points having only 50 people in a big hall. The Red Light was stuffed to overflowing at least for the first set and that helped a good bit. But if you go, take a pillow. By 12:30 when the show ended my ass was really sore. Would I do it again? You bet. But it might be better at the Tabernacle or Variety where it's no sin to get up and stomp.