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Dave Mason & Orleans – Keswick Theatre – Glenside (A Concert Review)

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Dave Mason & Orleans – Keswick Theatre – Glenside, PA – June 2, 2023

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Mason (he was inducted as a member of Traffic) has had a long, winding, fascinating career.

He has had a stellar career as a sideman: as Wikipedia explains, “Over the course of his career, Mason has played and recorded with many notable pop and rock musicians, including Paul McCartney, George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Steve Winwood, Fleetwood Mac, Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, and Cass Elliot.”

For example, who remembered that he played a twelve-string acoustic guitar on his friend Jimi Hendrix’ classic Dylan cover “All Along the Watchtower?” He also played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, The Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet and was briefly a member of Derek and the Dominoes.

He wrote Joe Cocker’s huge single “Feelin’ Alright” (which was actually originally a Traffic song). He has had solo hits like “We Just Disagree” and “Only You Know, and I Know.” So, there was a lot of guitar history coming onstage at the Keswick Theatre.

First, opening act Orleans played some of their big 70s hits to warm the gig up. Of course, there was only one member left from the band’s hitmaking years – bassist Lance Hoppen. Original drummer Wells Kelly died in 1984, guitarist and singer Larry Hoppen (Lance’s brother) died in 2012 and guitarist/singer John Hall left the band for politics, becoming a congressman for New York from 2006-2010. He has since retired from both politics and performing. However, the current players have been together for years, including keyboardist Lane Hoppen (Lance’s son) who has been with the band about 20 years, guitarist Fly Omero who has been there about 15, and the newcomer, drummer Brady Spencer, who has been with Orleans for five years.

They opened with the title track of their Let There Be Music album, followed up by their huge 1975 hit “Dance With Me.” They next did a terrific cover of King Harvest’s near-perfect pop single “Dancing in the Moonlight,” which has a tangential Orleans connection – who knew that late drummer Wells Kelly was a member of King Harvest before he started with Orleans?

Other smart pop songs included “Miss Grace,” “Slipping Away” and “Juliet.” Then Lance Hoppen announced, “This was our last radio hit in 1979.” Then he said tongue-in-cheekily, “You can pick it up at Tower Records.” The band launched into a sweet version of “Love Takes Time.” Then they closed it down with their soft-rock classic “Still the One.”

For his set, Mason opened with his first solo single, the sweet folk-rock stylings of “Only You Know, and I Know.” Surprisingly, Mason played more Traffic songs than solo tracks, so this was a welcome addition to the setlist.

The Traffic piled up soon enough, with a block of songs from that band made up of “Rock and Roll Stew,” “Pearly Queen” and “Forty Thousand Headmen.”

Then he slipped back into the solo stuff. Only a rock and roll royal like Mason can tell a story about songwriting icon Bob Dylan saying how much he loved his song (complete with a decent Dylan impression) before slipping into the gorgeous love song “Every Woman.” Then Mason pulled out his biggest solo card, the truly gorgeous (if just slightly cynical) love ballad “We Just Disagree.”

The big Traffic hits “The Low Spark of the High Heeled Boys” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” followed soon after, with slightly altered arrangements (particularly “Low Spark”), but they were warmly received.

The show closed out on scorching versions of “All Along the Watchtower” and “Feelin’ Alright,” which had the crowd… well… feelin’ alright. Mason wasn’t feelin’ so bad himself.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: June 3, 2023.

Photos by Jim Rinaldi © 2023


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