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Little Feat’s Reno performance more than a little pleasing (photos)

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I’ve been catching Little Feat at every opportunity since the ‘80s. They never fail to please, and always get the audience worked up with their style of southern Cajun rock and roll. The band played Sunday at Grand Sierra Resort with the opening act Dirty Dozen Brass Band. 

The early years of Little Feat were creatively successful but rocky with regard to band member relationships. They broke up upon the death of Lowell George in 1979 and reformed in 1987. Of the core members dating back to 1972, Fred Tackett, Bill Payne, Kenny Gradney and Sam Clayton are still playing in the band well into their 70s. 

In recent years, the deaths of drummer Richie Hayward and guitarist and vocalist Paul Berrare have been a great loss. Their places have been successfully filled by Tony Leone and Scott Sharrard, respectively.

I had not heard the band play with the new additions and was concerned it would not be up to par, but that concern was quickly put to rest. The choices of Leone and Sharrard were well thought out. Sharrard’s guitar playing and voice fit in perfectly, and Leone was able to satisfy the syncopated rhythms demanded of Little Feat songs.

The band started off the show strong with a triple header of Little Feat classics that got the room jumpin’: “Fat Man in the Bathtub,” “Let It Roll” and “Oh Atlanta.” Their energy has not subsided. “Fat Man in the Bathtub” starts off with an iconic drum riff that Leone nailed. Sharrard handled the slide guitar riffs and vocals perfectly. Payne played an excellent solo to fill it out. Lots of solos being traded off set the stage for a great night. 

“Let It Roll” is a pumped-up pile driver of a song that challenges anybody to stay seated. It’s next to impossible. More great solos were spilled forth. When they wrapped this one up, the cheers and screaming were thunderous.

Let’s face it. I’m not witty enough to write clever little vignettes for every song, plus I’d lose most of you if I tried that, so let’s move on. Suffice it to say, they nailed song after song, and the crowd loved them all.

As great of a band as Little Feat is, I was surprised at how many seats were empty when they started their show. I would guess that the back half of the theater was about half full. Sinful, I tell you. I hope it’s because there are so many great entertainment options in Reno. 

With two-thirds of the band in their 70s, it was logical that the crowd occupied the same demographic. It was mostly seniors, but it drifted down into the ‘young zone’ too. Before the show started, the gentleman sitting in front of me told me that if I saw him taking pills during the show, they were prescriptions. I think a lot of us have changed the selection of pills that we consume.

I love the ramp-up to the end of the show that most bands’ set lists subscribe to. I think it’s best to leave the crowd stomping their feet and wanting more. In the case of this show, it started with “Rocket In My Pocket,” which ignited a bit of a sing-along. This continued through “Tripe Face Boogie” and “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” without a break, building to a frenzied climax.

After a momentary pause, they said, “We have a couple more if that’s okay.” They then launched into “Spanish Moon” and “Skin It Back,” which were on their set list as an encore, but they didn’t even bother to leave the stage and come back. This was a 12-minute medley that also built to a frantic conclusion.

Little Feat’s tenacity to forge ahead, regardless of the setbacks, is heroic. This is a great band, and I am very pleased that they have endured the losses that have plagued them, from the early demise of Lowell George to their recent losses.

“Well, they say, time loves a hero. But only time will tell If he’s real.”

LITTLE FEAT

SETLIST

  • Fat Man in the Bathtub
  • Let It Roll
  • Oh Atlanta
  • Two Trains
  • On Your Way Down
  • Red Streamliner
  • Why Are People Like That
  • Texas Twister
  • Down On The Farm
  • Sailin’ Shoes
  • Trouble
  • Willin’
  • One Breath at a Time
  • Rocket in My Pocket
  • Dixie Chicken / Tripe Face Boogie
  • Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

Encore

Spanish Moon / Skin It Back

Nick McCabe
Nick McCabe
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 and writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.

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