Hugh Laurie toasting the Pantages in 2012/ Star Tribune photo by Marlin Levison
A few thoughts on Hugh Laurie’s concert Tuesday at the Pantages Theatre:
- He is an actor and lets you know he’s moonlighting in music. But his personality, humor and the first-rate Copper Bottom Band carry the very entertaining show – not his vocals. At best, he’s a serviceable vocalist who clearly has a love for old American blues and rock but doesn’t know how to get inside a song.
- Copper Bottom’s featured singers, Gaby Moreno and Jean McClain, were stand-out soloists and duet partners. Too bad their voices were often too soft in the sound mix.
- Laurie made it clear that he’s been to “Minne” before. The Brit even had a “Minnesota United” soccer banner on his stage set, which resembled a 1920s parlor. In fact, some of his jokes and bits, including giving shots of whiskey to all his band members, were repeated from last year’s concert at the Pantages.
- But Laurie has released a second album on Warner Bros. since then. He said here’s a line he never dreamed of uttering: “This is from my first album.” Actually, he played more material from this year’s “Didn’t It Rain” than from his “Let Them Talk” debut.
- Laurie and his band performed a generous 2 hours and 15 minutes. He talked a fair amount, invariably introducing each “old song” (he admitted that it was getting redundant) with the name of its composer and sometimes some context. He mugged a lot during his monologues. And, when he wasn’t seated at the piano, he often carried on like a life-of-the-party guy, dancing like a ham with goofy, exaggerated moves. He is as quirky as the Dr. House he played on TV.
- Like New Orleans, Laurie’s Crescent City-flavored show was good times.
Iko Iko (Dixie Cups did the first version) / Let the Good Times Roll (Shirley & Lee) / Evenin’/ What Kind of Man Are You (Ray Charles) / Day and Night/ Kiss of Fire/ Junco Partner/ Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair (Bessie Smith)/ Mystery Train (made famous by Elvis Presley) / You Don’ Know My Mind (Leadbelly) / Weed Smoker’s Dream (Harlem Hamfats) / Lazy River (Hoagy Carmichael) / So Damn Good (Jon Cleary) / Didn’t It Rain/ Careless Love/ Wild Honey (Dr. John) / I Hate a Man Like You (Jellyroll Morton) / I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor/Nina Simone)/ Green Green Rocky Road (Dave Van Ronk) ENCORE Go to the Mardi Gras (Professor Longhair)/ Changes/ You Never Can Tell (Chuck Berry)