Return To The Fillmore East – SkyCity Theatre: Oct.15, 2022

Return to the Fillmore East open the battle of the concerts this Saturday night with Led Zeppelin’s Good Times, Bad Times and segue straight into Black Dog.

It’s a lay down your weapons no –contest. The three witch-sirens from MacBeth sing, and Meredith Wilkie slays everyone instantly with Rock Banshee wails. In the days of my youth/ I was told what it means to be a man.

They start in triumph and don’t drop the pace until they walk off to the closing codas of the Allman Brothers Whipping Post. After two and a half hours of all-classic iconic tunes.

The Fillmore East was the legendary theatre run by Bill Graham, after he had successfully started Fillmore venues on the Californian coast. Located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, it was a former Jewish entertainment theatre. From March 1968 to June 1971, it was the premier venue for American music in all its forms. With the top acts from both sides of the Atlantic. Those years are critical for the peaks that popular music rose to. Encompassed by the boiling over of society and politics in a way not seen again until this glorious present time.

The specially curated band for this project come from a variety of backgrounds. Meredith Wilkie, voice, is the dynamic leader on-stage and also fronts the Rocky Bay Midnights, a Waiheke band with diverse rock, soul and jazz leanings. Nikki Ngata, voice, also in Neutrikk. Fonnie Teli-Davies completes the vocal trio.

The Solomon Cole Band is Solomon Cole lead guitar and vocals, Lee Catlin bass, LJ Philthy Animal Philander drums and Timothy keyboards. (Made that up regards the drummer.)

Aaron Carpenter plays harmonica, guitars, percussion and some lead vocals. Also leads a Waiheke Americana band Aaron Carpenter and the Revelators. Considered the best harp player in the country, and has played with everyone including Midge Marsden. Yer actual Boomer on stage tonight.

Straight after the Zepp jump start they barrel straight into Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Born on the Bayou. Swamp blues with a hand in the Delta. It literally steams with voodoo.

Stone Free from Jimi Hendrix Experience. Has a great make-over and the vocal trio make it sound a little like an Ike and Tina Turner soul revue belter. The guitar intro has the familiar sound.

The Doors is where Carpenter features, getting close to the signature baritone. L.A. Woman has some Eastern guitar phrases before it morphs into more familiar R’n’B. Crystalline keyboard textures. Break on Through (To the Other Side) is superb with ominous relentless rolling riffs.

Wilkie features on the two Janis Joplin numbers, Mercedes Benz and Me and Bobby McGee. They are as good as you suspect.

She tears into Black Coffee, equaling the passion of Steve Marriott with Humble Pie. The band has formed into a power trio, and it is deep Southern blues with soul.

But the stand-out vocal performance of the night is Wilkie singing Joni Mitchell’s Coyote. Magnificent soul phrasing makes it the best version I have heard. I finally understood the story of Sam Shepherd and the Rolling Thunder Revue. Temporary lovers, watching waitresses’ legs and wrestling with the ego. She tells me this is the song she sings to her family at bedtime. Sounds like it’s her song now.

Teli-Davies gives a great soulful outing for Grand Funk Railroad’s (and The Soul Brothers Six) Some Kind of Wonderful. I think she also takes the lead to Nina Simone’s Feeling Good. Black civil rights blues.

All three deliver on the incredible song which begins; Take me to heart/ And I’ll always love you. Dan Penn and Chips Moman’s classic Do Right Woman- Do Right Man, as done by Aretha. Or Gram Parsons if you prefer.

I could name them all as highlights, but here’s just a few more.

Hendrix and the Band of Gypsy’s Machine Gun. Lead guitar gets that tone right and improvises. The engine room bass and drums, who are great all night, give this it’s awesome power, complete with artillery and rifle shots.

The Who’s Substitute a nice surprise.

Sly and the Family Stone’s I Wanna Take You Higher and they deliver what is promised. More rock than funk, and they do take it back to the church, like they said.

They are a de facto Zepp tribute band. Rock’n’Roll  with the drums going over the top, and Whole Lotta Love. Heavy metal on wild oestrogen. Powered by the hypnotic repeated low-register guitar riffs. Similar to James Brown’s Sex Machine, and who cares who came first.

Return to the Fillmore East win the night because they got the knock-out at the start. They have talked about expanding the show. It’s incendiary as it stands.

Rev Orange Peel         

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