Elvin Bishop - guitar, vocals; Perry Welsh - vocals, harp; Stephen Miller - piano, organ, vocals; Kip Maercklein - bass; John Chambers - drums
This fourth and final night at Keystone Korner is the most interesting show of the run and features the core band in full jam mode throughout the night. Like the previous two nights, the show begins with Bishop welcoming the audience and promising that a few guest musicians will be dropping by later in the evening. The first and second sets feature much of the rare material they had resurrected on the previous two nights, but the X factor has increased on this night, bringing out many spectacular performances.
The first set kicks off with a lengthier instrumental take on "Never Trust a Woman," and by the second tune, B.B. King's "Why I Sing the Blues," it is apparent that the group is fully engaged in this new spontaneous approach. Fans of Bishop and Miller's pure blues abilities will find something very special happening from the get go. With the exception of another smoldering blues on "The Sky Is Crying" and Steve Miller's excellent original, "Pipeliner," the remainder of the first set focuses on usual repertoire, but with an instrumental edge to compensate for the missing female vocalists. "Party 'Til the Cows Come Home" ends the first set on a particular high note, leaving one anxious to hear where they'll go next.
Following the first break, the group returns to the stage and as one might expect, the second set is looser and more experimental than the first. It's also chock full of engaging blues numbers, with Bishop and Miller pulling out all the stops. Almost every song repeated from previous shows in this run is extended here, allowing Bishop to truly shine as a guitar player. From the set opening instrumental to the wild "Got My Mojo Workin'" that closes this set, the band is in great form, improvising up a storm. Bishops monologue prior to "The Things I Used To Do" is overly long and questionable in it's content, just like the previous nights, but his sense of humor comes across a bit better here. Near the end of this nearly fourteen minute exercise, Bishop cuts loose with some scorching guitar, that more than redeems the tediousness earlier on. "Sweet Potato" and "Going Down Slow" both clock in around ten minutes here, as opposed to the much tighter arrangements performed earlier in the run. This remarkable set also includes the only version of "Facts of Life" attempted during this run.
Following another break, where no doubt everyone was partying heavily, Elvin Bishop returns to the stage alone and begins to engage the audience in a sing-a-long exercise on "Let It Flow." This feel-good audience participation number helps eliminate the artificial barrier between performer and audience and before you know it, everyone in the room is fully engaged in this old time sing-a-long. The band-members join in as this progresses and by the end, it's reckless abandon in the most positive sense.
The core group then whips into "Tulsa Shuffle," another one-off performance from this run, before the first guest joins in. Bishop encourages Jimi Mamou to come up and join them, which he does for the next three numbers, bringing another flavor to the proceedings. For those unfamiliar with Mamou, he is a legendary blues artist, as well as a singer and guitarist who has been playing blues, zydeco, reggae, soul for decades. He has played in the bands of many other legends, as well, including Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker, among countless others. Mamou fronts the group for "Johnnie B. Goode," "Bright Lights Big City" and an enjoyable romp through "Night Time Is the Right Time."
After Mamou's impromptu set, Bishop and the core group continue with a great gospel-flavored "How Come It Is." At this point, having exhausted almost everything they know, Bishop pulls out his old chestnut "Drunken Hearted Boy," a song some might recall from his guest appearance with The Allman Brothers Band during the legendary Live at Fillmore East recordings. (It was released on the reissues of that classic album.)
With last call announced and little time left, Bishop brings up the powerful guitarist Mike Henderson to join him for some end-of-the-night fun. Henderson's muscular and innovative guitar playing helps kick things up a notch on a smoking version of "Don't Lie to Me." Henderson also has the uncanny knack for singing like the great Muddy Waters, giving this number additional authenticity. They close the night and this extraordinary run with another one off, "Soon Forgotten," with Henderson and Bishop trading licks and tearing it up one last time. Thus ends this fascinating run of shows, which began with challenging circumstances for the group. They ultimately rose to the challenge and provided these fortunate audiences with an experience never to be repeated and not soon forgotten.