Live Review: Canned Heat

4 November 2015 | 3:09 pm | Jonty Czuchwicki

"The power goes out across Adelaide. This spurs Fito to play a torch-lit drum solo, one that looks as life-affirming for him as it does for the crowd."

More Canned Heat More Canned Heat

From headlining the original Woodstock in 1969 to appearing for the first time in Adelaide in the space of 50 years, myriad details make Canned Heat's performance one to remember. It would prove to be an in-depth look into the past, a once in a lifetime surprise, and of course a showcase of that pioneering boogie rock, still capable of sending crowds into jittering masses of glee-filled faces.

The remaining line-up of Adolfo "Fito" del la Parra on the drums and original bassist Larry "The Mole" Taylor are complemented by John Paulus on guitar and New Orleans legend Dale Spalding on the guitar, harmonica and lead vocals. The role of lead singer has been plagued by suicides, heart attacks and drug overdoses for almost four decades.

Appearance-wise, Fito is a spitting image of Stones drummer Charlie Watts, though his drumming style takes a step back in time; it's a superbly old school array of swing beats and shuffles, making it intriguing to watch. You just don't see modern drummers who play this way anymore. The emphasis on simplicity provides a wide open sonic palette for the layering of bass, guitar, harmonica and vocals.

Even more intriguing is how this kind of blues-infused rock'n'roll barely exists anymore. Although it can sound geriatric on an analytical level, the grooving sentiments will still send your body into overdrive, hammering home the quintessential nature of boogie rock. The way The Mole's fingers scoot away up and down the bass frets is an audio-visual wonder, and you get the same jaw-dropping feeling watching the way Paulus and Spalding play guitar. 

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Spalding's voice is a great tool, but his ability on the harmonica is out of this world, continually being the focal point as it rings out through the mix. Canned Heat really have the audience in the palm of their hands at this point. Just before they're about to perform their encore, the power goes out across Adelaide. This spurs Fito to play a torch-lit drum solo, one that looks as life-affirming for him as it does for the crowd. Spalding then emerges with The Mole for an acoustic finale. The crowd files out by candle-light in awe.