Thanks to the indulgence of my lovely wife, Lynn, I finally got to fulfill one of my "bucket list" items by seeing Herb and Lani in concert, at the Triple Door in Seattle. (They were actually closer to us last fall, in Kalispell, MT but we were in Florida at that time!)
One thing I've found with concerts by older artists who aren't still "superstars" is, their fanbase doesn't rush the internet to buy tickets to the point where the shows are sold out within minutes. I didn't find out about this show until it had been on sale for several weeks, but was still able to secure seats in front row center, so literally a perfect spot.
The stage had a trio of video screens, one very large one in the middle and two smaller ones at the sides. The screens showed a never-ending montage of various Herb artworks, plus nostalgic photos and a few other things at the appropriate times. The video for "Puttin' on the Ritz" was on the screen when they played that song.
The proceedings opened with the well-known video of Herb's version of "What a Wonderful World," after which Herb (still offstage) introduced the band members. And then... there they were. I couldn't believe I was finally seeing these two people in person after listening to their music for over fifty years!
There were a couple of surprises in the show, starting out of the gate when Herb opened with "The Work Song" in an arrangement almost identical to the TJB version. That segued directly into a TJB-ish rendition of "What Now My Love." I was very surprised and happy to hear both of those, and they got the show off to a great start.
Then it was Lani's turn in the spotlight for a couple of Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 numbers: "Tim Dom Dom" and "One Note Samba/Spanish Flea," which were also surprising to hear -- at least I haven't seen those two on other concert reviews I've seen.
From there it was a great tour through some of Herb's recent output - "Human Nature," "I'm Yours," "Moondance," "Something," "Michelle," "Sunny Side of the Street," and maybe a couple others I don't remember. There was a crowd singalong for "This Guy's In Love With You," which went over big. And of course the TJB medley and the Sergio Mendes medley, both of which drew huge rounds of applause. The TJB medley included "Bittersweet Samba," which I haven't seen in any set-lists on line; could it have been a new addition for this tour? And the Brasil '66 medley included, to my delight, a couple of my favorite songs that weren't hits -- "Upa Neguinho" and "Laia Ladaia."
Surprisingly, Herb's most recent album Reimagines the Tijuana Brass didn't even get a mention -- in fact, during Lani's Sergio Mendes medley, all of the Brasil '66 album covers (including Foursider!) were displayed on the big screen one at a time, but the only Herb Alpert cover that appeared during the whole concert was Whipped Cream.
They did "Besame Mucho" in a version that was miles away from the great version on Herb's Magic Man album, but it still sounded great. There was a very lovely song that Lani sang to Herb, "Like a Star," which was really sweet and heartfelt. He looked embarrassed and pleased the whole time.
The band was in fine form, especially Bill Cantos, who did a terrific piano/vocal piece which Herb joked about afterwards -- "I think he just made that up. I've never heard that before, you just made it up, didn't you?" And then a few seconds later, "Do you always play it in that key?" Mike Shapiro on drums sounds like he could play just about anything - he came off as a much more rockin' drummer than he's allowed to be on the recent Herb studio albums. And Hussain Jiffry was clearly having a grand time on the bass, seeming like he was improvising about as much as he was playing from the chart, and hitting the right notes either way.
Herb did about three segments of audience Q&A, and told the story of the Whipped Cream album cover, and how he owed a lot to Seattle because the TJB's first 'big' concert was at Seattle's Edgewater Inn. He also related the story of "A Taste of Honey" and how they'd promoted the wrong side of the record. He asked people NOT to request songs, but that didn't stop a couple of jackasses in the crowd from yelling out song titles, including one guy who very loudly demanded to hear "Rise" ("play the whole thing," he yelled.)
One guy right behind us stood up during the Q&A segment and told Lani that he'd had a crush on her upon first discovering her music when he was in high school, and said she had "the most beautiful voice in the whole wide world," which I thought was awesome. Another guy said he had been inspired at the age of 9 by Herb to pick up the trumpet, and today he is a trumpet teacher, which led Herb to talk about how he discovered the trumpet at age 8.
Herb got a big laugh when he mentioned that they had CDs and Lani's book for sale in the back - "but you don't need 'em," he said. "Only if you really want to buy 'em -- seriously, you don't need 'em."
Before we knew it, it was time for "Puttin' On The Ritz" and then it was over.
We hung around a bit at the end talking to some people from Denver who were sitting alongside us -- they had been to the show the previous night, too -- and then on the way out, we passed none other than Bill Cantos hustling down the stairs toward the stage. I didn't even realize it was him until he had already gone by. So we stood near the back of the club on the chance he'd come back the same way, and sure enough after a minute or two, he did. So I introduced myself from A&M Corner, he remembered who I was, and we had a nice visit for about five minutes, which was really cool. I was a little star-struck so I don't remember much of what we talked about, but he did say he hasn't been on the Corner in a while and I encouraged him to pay us a visit.
Overall, it was a terrific night, and totally worth not only the long wait, but the 900-mile flight to get there. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.