Mavis Staples/ Associated Press photo by Dave Martin
A few thoughts on the Mavis Staples/ Trombone Shorty concert Sunday at the sold-out Minnesota Zoo amphitheater:
*This was not an obvious pairing but an inspired one.
* Both stars are strong personalities who know how to entertain. Interestingly, neither one plugged her/his latest album. (Hers came out last month, his is due Sept. 10.)
* Can’t remember when I’ve seen Staples, 74, in better spirits in concert of late, even though she was favoring a sore knee (she mentioned replacement surgery) and had to sit down a couple of times during her 80-minute opening set. In fact, at one point, she retired to the back of the stage and let guitarist Rick Holmstrom (a key contributor all night) and the rhythm section play a couple of instrumentals.
* Staples’ repertoire definitely had a gospel vibe without her doing any heavy preaching, as she has done in shows at the Dakota and the Cedar. Loved her scatting and testifying on the closing “I’ll Take You There.”
* She’ll return Dec. 14 at Hopkins Center for the Arts.
*Trombone Shorty, 27, is a high-energy, captivating entertainer, exciting trumpeter and trombonist but only a serviceable vocalist. He has the right vocal instincts but his voice is thin and not commanding.
*Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, his band, are one crowd-pleasing party band. Coming across somewhere between a bar band and a jam band, they deliver a sound that is a tad raw and aggressive but endlessly funky.
* Even though Trombone Shorty and his quintet played several originals in their 85-minute set, the highlights were their treatments of New Orleans’ classics – Jessie Hill’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” and “St. James Infirmary.”