Le Grand Rex First Night (Crystal Cat CC 869-870)
Le Grand Rex, Paris, France – February 14th, 2008
Disc 1: Intro., From Hank To Hendrix, Ambulance Blues, Sad Movies, A Man Needs A Maid, No One Seems To Know, Harvest, Journey Through The Past, Mellow My Mind, Love Art Blues, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Cowgirl In The Sand, Out On The Weekend. Separate Ways (Austria Center, Vienna, Austria – February 22nd). Kansas, Stringman (RAI Theater, Amsterdam, Holland – February 18th)
Disc 2: Mr. Soul, Don’t Cry No Tears, Dirty Old Man, Spirit Road, Bad Fog Of Loneliness, Winterlong, Oh Lonesome Me, The Believer, No Hidden Path, Cinnamon Girl, Like A Hurricane
Le Grand Rex First Night captures the first of two shows in the French capital on the Continental tour. Le Grand Rex is a famous movie theater build in the 1930s with a 2,800 seating capacity and among the best acoustics in Europe. Crystal Cat use a generally excellent sounding tape. It is very clear and detailed during the acoustic set, capturing all of the dynamics perfectly. But during the electric set there is a bit of distortion and sounds as if the taper didn’t set the levels quite right. It isn’t a serious issue and it is certainly listenable, but Crystal Cat normally avoid such issues by using near perfect recordings with flawless mastering. The tape picks up right at the beginning when the announcer tells the audience to turn off their cell phones to not shout out requests since Neil has already decided on the setlist.
The set list is comprised of the normal repertoire. He give a honky tonk arrangement to “Journey Through The Past” and afterwards gets into a long story, saying, “That song reminds me of my grandma. She used to play a honky tonk piano. She used to work in a copper mine in a place called Flin Flon in Manitoba, up in Canada. She was the girl at the gate. She kept all the little brass square pieces the guys would wear around their neck with their numbers and their names. And when they went into the mine she’d give them to them. And at the end of the day they’d all come back up and give her back her keys and she would look at the wall and see if anyone was missing. Because that meant they were still down in the mine and something went wrong. but what she really did was play piano. she was the only one in Flin Flon who played piano like that. she played at the weddings, she played at the funerals. She played for the big theater productions in Flin Flon. It wasn’t like this, but it’s what we had. So when i play that honky tonk style piano, I think of my grandma. But let’s forget about grandma because she never played the banjo.”
The electric set begins with the electric arrangement of “Mr. Soul.” He gives the band introduction and dedicates “Winterlong” to Danny Whitten. “No Hidden Path” is almost twenty-five minutes long as they explore all different variations of the melody in a long jam session. A review afterwards said about this night’s rendition: “‘No Hidden Path,’ a recent song, becomes a real piece of bravery for about thirty minutes. The tenderhearted folk singer changed into a knight of the apocalypse.” (Le Monde, Saturday, February 16th). “Cinnamon Girl” and a twelve minute version of “Like A Hurricane” are the only encores. There was no “Sultan” tonight. The three bonus tracks are played on the end of the first disc including the only performance of “Separate Ways” in the continental tour and a haunting version of “Kansas” from the unreleased album Homegrown. Crystal Cat packge Le Grand Rex First Night in a double slimline jewel case with 12 page booklet with several photos from the show all printed on thick glossy paper.