Music Notes

Foghat – Live at Fortune Bay Casino, Tower, Minnesota, Sept. 4, 2011

One of my favorite boogie-rock bands was played a great show in the north woods over the Labor Day Weekend. Foghat traveled north to Tower, Minnesota, to open for Ted Nugent at Fortune Bay Casino. It was my first time to Fortune Bay, and the stage was set at the back of one of the facilities’ parking lots. It was general admission seating, and my friend, Josh, and I made our way up to within 50 feet or so of the stage. Foghat came on at 6 p.m. under high blue skies and a bright sun. The air had the feel of early fall, with a slight crispness to the light breeze that was blowing. Charlie Huhn (guitars/lead vocals), Bryan Bassett (guitars), Craig McGregor (bass) and Roger Earl (drums) took the stage and launched into the classic “Road Fever,” from 1973’s Rock And Roll. First impressions? It was very, very loud, but the sound was clean and well produced so I settled into groove with the hundreds around me and thousands behind me. One man in the audience was really enjoying himself. He danced with his arms pumping violently up and down, and at the end of each song announced, “That’s my favorite song of all time. Foghat is my favorite band!”

I’ve seen Foghat several times over the last 30 years or so, and the band seems incapable of playing a bad show. It’s all smiles with the members, whether it’s McGregor and Earl sharing an inside joke over the monstrous drum beat or Huhn and Bassett trading guitar licks. Each player seems truly happy to be playing live, and the crowd responded in kind.

The set was a bit short, due to opening time constraints, but that only meant high moments across the board. “My Babe,” a deep track from Fool For The City, features plenty of tasty vocal harmonies and ripping slide guitar throughout the chorus. Foghat followed with their version of “Take Me To The River,” a solid groover that led way to “Stone Blue.” This is my favorite Foghat tune, partly because I believe Rod Price’s original slide guitar solo is a masterpiece, on par with the greatest rock guitar solos of all time, including “Comfortably Numb,” “Layla” or “Hotel California.” The guitar lines are musical and seer with passion and fire. This is a solo whose every note is burnt into the memory and is as important to the song as the lyrics and chords. Fortunately, Bassett is a skilled slide player and does a great job re-creating the magic playing the parts note-for-note.

Foghat pulled out more old favorites including the incendiary “Drivin’ Wheel,” from 1976’s underrated rocker, Night Shift, along with signature tunes “Fool For The City,” “I Just Want To Make Love To You” and “Slow Ride.” It’s been many years since “Lonesome” Dave Peverett was at the mic with Foghat, but my friend rightly said that Charlie sings these songs very well and his vocal abilities really help these songs retain the “Foghat stamp.” And it’s not until you hear the band live that you discover how much of the band’s sound comes from Craig McGregor’s bass lines and the accents and notes he uses to paint a full musical picture. Of course, Roger Earl’s drumming is always spot-on, powerful yet finessed. His kit featured a sparkle shell wrap, that when the sunlight struck it turned various shades of silver, red and blue. It was a very cool effect and one that I’ll remember from this excellent gig. (Thank you to Rose Nangano and Randy Meullier for your assistance!)

Nearly 40 years on and Foghat is still rockin’ stronger than ever. If you get a chance to see the band live, do it!

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