Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
hortly after the Josh Abbott Band finished its open song, "The Night is Ours," band leader Abbott proclaimed, "That's our theme song this year."
Presumably Abbott was referring to the playing music and having a good time because if he was referring to the lines "Life is good, love is great/Friends are there, and the night is ours," well, it's not been the kindest year to Abbott personally and his band, but then again that did not stop the large band out of Texas from having this night be theirs.
On the personal and sad side, Abbott suffered the loss of his father after a stroke during the winter. On the professional side, the band played the same Las Vegas bill as Jason Aldean at which gunman Stephen Paddock murdered 58 fans. On the positive side, Abbott became a father.
Despite the tragedies, Abbott and his stellar backing band offered a night of uplifting, at times, heartfelt music.
That would be songs such as "Until My Voice Goes Out," about Abbott's father, the opening encore song of "Touch" done by Abbott solo acoustic more quietly vocally and musically, and on the flip side, the good time sounds of "Where's the Party" and "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" (as in WTF).
Interestingly, the song that has attracted the most attention for Abbott on the commercial side, "Wasn't That Drunk" recorded with Carly Pearce, fell flat with female vocals sorely missing.
Abbott was a good front man, not over the top, but engaging enough. In reality, he doesn't have the most sonorous voice going, but he knows how to deliver the material.
So does his backing band. Preston Wait was the man on fiddle and electric guitar, taking some vocals as well with leads on "Son of a Bitch." Lively, engaging and a real spark plug. The same really could be said for the rest of the band including Austin Davis on banjo, who received significant face time.
This time around, Abbott is touring with a horn section and at times a two-piece string section of cello and fiddle. None of them were window dressing as Abbott employed all of them quite effectively in bolstering the sound and giving much diversity to the sonics.
Despite having such a good band, Abbott tended to rein them in too often. When he talked about giving a guitar or banjo solo early on, the solos literally lasted for a few seconds. Too bad because more would have been a real boon.
Yet, it wasn't that way throughout. On "Taste," the sax man took advantage of his time to shine.
Curiously, Abbott let his band really take center stage during the ultra lively, firing on all fours closer, Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band" with mando player/keyboardist David Fralin taking over lead vocals like a man possessed. What a superb close that showed what can happen when a band is given enough rope.
Life, of course, is filled with ups and downs as the Josh Abbott Band and music fans have keenly witnessed this year. Despite that, the group proved that music can be a powerful uplifting antidote as it was on this night.