Smooth Jazz Sunday was scotched a long time ago, but Blues Saturday will cook as planned Saturday at the Gorge Amphitheatre.
In this case, the name of the place may take on a new meaning, as in, “Hey, man, let’s Gorge ourselves on the blues.”
Daylong blues extravaganzas have become stock-in-trade at the amphitheater, where fans loll on the lawn in the sun, saturating themselves in blues licks to a procession of blues greats.
This year’s lineup is perhaps the best in the series’ history: the reunited J. Geils and Magic Dick open, followed by the resurgent Elvin Bishop, the effervescent Etta James and down-and-dirty Jimmie Vaughan.
The granddaddy of them all, B.B. King, will headline.
Six hours of blues. That should be just about enough for one day.
Everybody knows B.B. King, one of the modern blues legends. A few years ago, he turned the Festival at Sandpoint on its ear with a set that practically defined the blues. King put his stamp that night on the Delta blues with a centerpiece acoustic set and turned up the amps on a full blown Chicago-style raveup.
Formerly a mainstay of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jimmy Vaughan had just recorded a CD with his little brother Stevie Ray when the younger man was killed in a helicopter crash. Jimmie Vaughan grieved deeply, then put together a new band and released “Strange Pleasure,” a rocking set that features his knowing vocals and ripping guitar. Vaughan is certain to rock the place before the master takes over.
Of course, he has the unenviable task of following Etta James, an R&B; belter with chops so good she can cross over to jazz - witness her tribute last year to Billie Holiday. Live, James is a monster performer who can hold her own against any of the great ones.
A few years ago, Elvin Bishop might have been considered the weak card in this draw, but he served up an over-the-top show at the Masonic Temple awhile back that served notice he’s back.
Blues Saturday opens with a treat - Bluestime, the new band put together by Geils, guitar, and Magic Dick, harp and vocals. When these two guys were young cats, they played some of the best blues to come out of the Northeast. Ultimately, they evolved into the J. Geils Band and found international stardom. Now, the J. Geils Band is history, and Geils and Magic Dick are getting it on again with a swinging, jazzy blues sound that incorporates elements of Chicago jazz.
Word is, they’re good.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Blues Saturday, with B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, Etta James, Elvin Bishop, Bluestime Location and time: The Gorge Amphitheatre, Saturday, 3 p.m. Tickets: From $43.60 to $27.85