The Doobie Brothers:
Palm Beach, FL

By John Lynskey / Photos by Kelley Lynskey
The cover story for the upcoming issue of Hittin' the Note is a feature on Doobie Brothers guitarist/vocalist Tom Johnston, so as preview, please enjoy this recap of the band's recent show in Palm Beach, FL.

The Doobie Brothers wrapped up the Florida leg of their World Gone Crazy tour on November 13, captivating the crowd in the sold-out Dreyfoos Hall with two hours of energy-charged music. Opening with the charging "Take Me in Your Arms" from 1975's Stampede, the tone was set for the evening. Tom Johnston's vocals were accented by textbook Doobies' harmonies, plus a stinging solo from Pat Simmons and rolling bass lines from John Cowan. The gospel-flavored "Jesus is Just Alright" was supported by John McFee's powerful guitar run and shimmering B-3 work from keyboardist Guy Allison. McFee's catchy slide dobro kicked off the explosive "Dangerous," with Pat Simmons on lead vocals and longtime sax player Mark Russo adding some timely fills. By this point it was clear that the group had settled in and had found their stride early.

Tom Johnston stepped up to the mic for "Rockin' Down the Highway," a gem from Toulouse Street, and his solo was framed by excellent rhythm work from John Cowan and drummers Ed Toth and Tony Pia. Pat Simmons took everyone back to 1973 for "Clear As the Driven Snow," which featured stellar five-part harmony and a killer tempo change that was driven home by Pat's searing solo. Tom then introduced the first of three tunes from World Gone Crazy, the band's critically-acclaimed new CD. A rollicking "Nobody" featured John McFee's dobro work and on-the-money group harmonies; "Nobody" is the first single from World Gone Crazy and is a superb remake of the version released on the band debut album, The Doobie Brothers.

Guy Allison's funky piano gave way to some gospel-style preaching from John Cowan before the group launched into the title song from WGC. Tom's ode to New Orleans had a swinging drum break from Ed Toth and Tony Pia, as well as a soaring sax solo from Mark Russo that got the crowd up and dancing. Pat's "Chateau" was gritty and nasty, a true rocker that John McFee stood out on. "Takin' It to the Streets" allowed the band to dip into the Michael McDonald era, with Pat handling the vocals that McDonald made so famous. A blues-soaked "Don't Start Me Talkin'" took the music in a different direction, with Tom's vocals and six-string work paying tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson; the guitar duel between Tom and John McFee brought this one to a rousing finish. The Doobie Brothers continued to show their diversity with the pure R&B of "Little Bitty Pretty One," which was full of infectious joy.

"Black Water" brought the crowd back up on their feet; this classic sounds fresh and alive, 36 years after it appeared on What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. The familiar chugging guitar intro of "Long Train Runnin'" kept the energy flowing, and an extended outro was a sweet way to close out the set.

The encore consisted of three Tom Johnston standards; the hard-charging "China Grove," the over-the-top power of "Without You" and "Listen to the Music," one of the great sing-alongs of the rock era. As the final notes of the night faded, it was happy times indeed throughout Dreyfoos Hall. The Doobie Brothers proved that there is still plenty of gas left in the tank, and many songs yet to be sung.


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