written by Rob Turner - Tour Manager
Today started with the language barrier resulting in me putting something other than shampoo in my hair. I looked carefully at the bottles. I really did. Examined them.....tried to discern just what was in them. But I ended up with a hairdo that made me look like Cousin It and apparently smell like something similar to the undercarriage of a VW bus that had been dormant since Grateful Dead Tour circa 1981.
I wasn't about to do anything about it though. We were in too much of a hurry to get to Bremerhaven and see Neil and Liane Bresnahan. Jon just made sure I had the driver's window cracked for a majority of the ride.
The lively Bresnahan's had hosted us last year and we had had a grand time with them. Neil is a guitarist who had lived in Florida throughout the sixties, and ended up moving to Germany in 1977. He worked as a roadie for the band Flatsch - named after the sound a pie makes when it hits someone in the face. It makes one think that Josh Reddick would love them. Neil was with the band for the majority of its incredibly successful decade-and-a-half existence. The enigmatic Gerd Knebel fronted the band, and was also known for his work with a comedy duo called Bath Salts.
Neil also worked local crew for many years. One time Bob Dylan ended up standing next to him and Neil found himself lighting Bob's cigarette. He even roadie'd through Belgium, Holland and Germany for Mickey Mouse during a Disney industry tour when they were trying to attract shows to their Florida park. He said that it was like working for The Vatican with all of the strict rules and protocol. Among the many shows he worked were some from David Bowie's Glass Spider Tour and various U2, The Pretenders and Fleetwood Mac tours. Neil also once saw Santana twice in one day.
Sadly, Neil has been dealing with multiple forms of cancer since just weeks after we left him last year. We were expecting him to be frail and maybe not in the best state of mind. We couldn't have been more wrong. He actually looked like George Carlin, and was in great spirits considering his situation. He even seemed to have a bit of Carlin's "devil may care" attitude. He recounted his horrifying last year to us, which included many hospital visits for radiation.
Fortunately, he had sufficient energy to attend the gig. So, after Liane made a fantastic dinner for us, she drove all of us down. It didn't take long for us to be reminded how Liane is adored in the area. Before she even entered the pub in which Jon would play, people were greeting her with excited warmth. She seems like something of a celebrity in the area. This is not surprising as she is incredibly friendly and thoughtful, yet she also has a wry and slightly edgy sense of humor - so much so that it comes across to me with clarity despite our slight language barrier.
We also were reunited with our friend Barbara Pawlik, who is quite possibly the most openly enthusiastic fan Jon has in Germany. Her entrance to the bar brought a wave of energy. She is a very lively woman and she happily reported that she had landed a job at Duetsches Auswanderer Haus. This is a museum at the site of the German Emigration Center, from which many, many people sailed under oft-adverse conditions to reach the United States. Neil had taken us to this museum last year!
She could not contain her excitement for Jon's return, and others seemed to find it infectuous. Between songs she could often be heard shouting excited positive feedback to Jon. "I have been waiting a year for this!" "Please come back sooner!" and "Play all night!" were among her exclamations.
"California Zephyr" has consistently been receiving a rousing response, and tonight it silenced a somewhat chatty, but energetic room - a few folks got up and boogied in the narrow area between the bar and the front of the stage. The good-natured bartenders did not mind that this impeded their walk from the tables they were serving and back to the bar. They calmly and kindly knifed their way through the revelry. One bartender and I hit it off particularly well. His name is Jakob, and we are now FB-friends. He is also clearly a ladies favorite. Good for him!
Jon did "Clementine" for Neil, as it was one of the songs they had performed together in this same room a year ago. You can jump to a video of this performance in the links section after the setlists below. Neil was unable to perform tonight, but he was most certainly enjoying himself, and he was familiar enough with Jon's work to appreciate that, "All Your Neon Dollars" is a new, as-yet unrecorded Shain original. This song has become a staple of the tour. It is filled with imagery from the old west, and encourages the listener to be drawn to the smaller and more meaningful things in life, as opposed to glitz and glamour.
Jon also did what would be the only version of "Social Disease" this tour. This Elton John/Bernie Taupin song leads Jon's most recent cd Upholstered. He performed it by Barbara's request. It was followed by a pairing I had never heard from Jon, a gritty take on "Big Boss Man" which first featured a nifty little vocal jam, and then veered into"Good Mornin' Little Schoolgirl." After a couple of verses, Jon played perhaps his strongest solo of the night and used it as a bridge to vault himself back into "Big Boss Man." The crowd responded jovially to this, and again at the end of the song. This prompted Jon to pick up the slide and dig in for a drippy and meaty "Little Red Rooster." The slide sat out for "James Alley Blues" and would return for "Dram Lest We Get Dry." A conversation at setbreak revealed to me that although "James Alley Blues" was written by Richard "Rabbit" Brown, it also is part of Bob Dylan's legendary Minneapolis Hotel Tapes and was performed by Wilco in the 90s. Sometimes you get shown the light in the most German of places if you look at it right.
The spirit of bustouts continued through the 2nd set as he opened with a very strong version of "Poetry + Sin" that was sadly ignored by most, but the also-tour-debut of the mysterious "Philly Girl" started to draw them back in....so by the time he delved into The Ventures' "Walk, Don't Run 64" he had the majority of the room focused on him again despite the fact that this was more so than any venue on this tour clearly a pub rather than a music room. I later learned that this was one last tribute to our friends in Almelo as he had discussed the song with our Almelo buddies Hank Lammers and Tom Weel a couple of days before.
The attentiveness surely helped served to motivate Jon to plop "Blackberry Blossom" into the middle of The Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now" so deftly that it felt stunningly natural. Maybe the rock veterans should consider doing the same on their coming tour. He tore through the rest of the set, digging into "Perambulatory Blues" with extra zest for the blues-loving crowd and he reignited the dance floor during "Ooncha Ooncha Music." Jon likes to end with sing-a-longs and so tonight he did, as everyone around the bar seemed to be backing vocalists on "To Love Somebody." The crowd quieted down one last time for an affecting take on Mississippi John Hurt's "My Creole Belle" which was this evening's encore.
Liane kindly drove Barbara Pawlik back to her home after the show, and her post-show outright exuberance put me in the mind of how I had felt after many slamming Grateful Dead shows many years ago. Then it was back to the Bresnahans where I congratulated Neil on his resilience (he seemed to be running out of gas mid-2nd set, but then rallied with strength). They also brought over a dog from a neighbor's house, as they were pet sitting for the week, and so we were entertained by this li'l guy. I particularly enjoyed having a little time with him because by this time I very much missed my own dog, something that Jon would reference musically at the next show. After a quick recap of the night with Neil I retired to my blog while my partners in music for the night retired to their beds. Much like last year, I knew I would reflect on my Bremerhaven night with fondness for many months.
Cafe de Fiets
October 8, 2014
Drivn' 'em Crazy
All Neon Dollars
Lucy, Don't You See
Big Boss Man>
Good Morning Li'l Schoolgirl>
Big Boss Man
Little Red Rooster
James Alley Blues
Dram Lest We Get Dry
Poetry + Sin
Walk, Don't Run 64
It's All Over Now>
It''s All Over Now
Cornershops and Subway Trains
Ooncha Ooncha Music
To Love Somebody
My Creole Belle
Flatsch performing live
Josh Reddick as Pie-derman
Duetsches Auswanderer Haus
Neil Bresnahan joining Jon Shain for Clementine during last year's visit to Bremerhaven
Richard "Rabbit" Brown's original version of James Alley Blues
Wilco performing James Alley Blues
Jon Shain performing James Alley Blues during his 2013 European Tour