Picture a packed house at Darwin’s Saturday night for Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind. At first sight, dressed in loose white pants and shirt and with his hair pulled back by a headband, Ricci looked rather like a decadent angel. But when he started to blow that harp, it was immediately clear that the sides aren’t that easily divided. But whatever side between sublime and diabolical or whatever line this music and this live performance falls on, it is nothing less than mesmerizing.
First of all, let’s make it clear that Ricci is the best harmonica player I have ever heard. At times I swear it sounds like he’s playing many instruments at the same time, like a whole orchestra issuing from his mouth, with his incredible band provides the structure that lets him soar. Harps appear and disappear. In fact, he is like a magician, moving fluidly whether he is playing, singing or directing his band with his body like a marionette master..point this way, the guitar dominates and now down…bam! point the other way, the bass and now hands flung upward..all together!
Now he’s telling a story about what it’s like to get hit on by girls and boys and possibly mountain lions and then he’s pouring so much emotion into the heartbreaking “Broken Toy,” the story of being the outsider in all sorts of ways, and then his amazing rendition of “I fink You Freaky” leads to his triumphant “I’m Too Strong For You” and that incredible harp solo, which he claims he had to “simplify” because on the test pressings for Approved By Snakes, the solo was causing people to have mass hallucinations and see visions and his agents said he had o change “So no more children get hurt by your music, Jason.” He then turns a basic scale into something incredible.
And that’s how it goes for the entire two hours we were there. “This is my 2,” Jason confided to the audience. “My 2 is most people’s 11. I always have to remember that.”
Maybe so, but the crowd is eating it up, all of us clapping and howling after every song. I have to keep remembering to change my slack-jawed stare of amazement to a huge grin of delight all night so as not to look as thunderstruck as I really was, not that it mattered if I was staring like an idiot. Everybody is looking at the stage, anyway.
Something must be said about The Bad Kind, who are, of course, incredibly good. Imagine what it takes to keep up with Ricci night after night! But they do, and this night they are brilliant.
Ricci says he often gets complaints that the music he plays is not blues, but after sharing Webster’s definition of the blues as “a musical lament,” he ends our set with an amazing version of “Walk On The Wild Side,”extremely moving from one who openly talks an out how far on that side he has been.
Stay healthy, Jason, and keep making music. You have a unique story and the will and talent to share it. And you’re good man, you’re freaking brilliant.
It should be obvious that I think you should see Jason Ricci and The Bad Kind every chance you get.
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