68 year-old rocker Joe Cocker was feeling alright Wednesday night August 15th at the Greek Theater where he performed to a full house of baby-boomers in shorts and T-shirts. While the hair had whitened somewhat, the high energy and enthusiasm were the same as what I remember from his “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour in the early 70s.
Huey Lewis and The News, tighter than ever, entertained us for the first hour and to our delight delivered all their hits from, “I Want A New Drug,” “Power of Love,” “The Heart of Rock n’ Roll,” “Do You Believe In Love,” “Back In Town” and “If This Is It,” among others. Before leaving the stage, Huey promised us that we were in for a great show from Joe Cocker: “You will not be disappointed, and for the ones who have paid for their tickets, you will get your money’s worth!” After a 30 minute intermission, Joe Cocker took the stage without any fanfare or elaborate staging, a simple black curtain in the background in the tradition of rock n’ roll, leaving it all to the music. Opening his set with “Feelin Alright,” he immediately transitioned to “Hitchcock Railway” and “The Letter,” without as little as a hello. His gravelly voice was the same as ever, as if no time had passed. You couldn’t help but notice the massive amounts of water that Joe was gulping between every possible break, no doubt to keep those gritty pipes in working order for the entire concert. The only time he addressed the audience was to introduce his six-piece band which included, Norman Fimple (saxophone/percussionist), Oneida James (bass), Nick Milo (keyboards), Mike Finnigan (Hammond organ), Gene Black (guitar), Jack Bruno (drums) and Nichelle Tillman and Kacee Clanton backing vocals. Dressed all in black, Cocker’s signature spastic hand moves and gyrations were very present. I couldn’t help but remember John Belushi doing his impression of Joe Cocker side by side with him on Saturday Night Live. He blasted through his catalogue of hits, one after the other; “When The Night Comes,” “Unchain My Heart,” “Up Where We Belong,” “Come Together.” His sexy interpretation of Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” was followed by “You Are So Beautiful,” which he not only sang, but acted as if he were about to break down at any moment. Cocker is one of those extraordinary artists who has an incredible passion for his craft and is capable of communicating it to his audience like no one else. “Hard Knocks,” from his new album, is also part of his repertoire, but it was his uncanny growling which got the public on their feet when he delivered “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which was his last song before returning for an encore. One thing is certain; even though he did very little talking, he delivered everything that we all expected and what we came for. His encore was the icing on the cake with “She Came in Through The Bathroom Window” and “Cry Me a River.” Exiting the stage waving the peace sign at us, he stated; “LA, keep on Rocking and I’ll be back.” And we’ll all be there waiting.
By Michele Elyzabeth