Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hot Tuna at the Beacon Theatre

In 1969, Jefferson Airplane was on hiatus while Grace Slick recovered from throat node surgery. Several remaining members of the band began playing clubs in the Bay Area of California. That band, primarily led by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady, played covers of Jefferson Airplane songs and old-time blues and folk songs. Initially a band in waiting for Jefferson Airplane, then an opening act for the same band, Hot Tuna evolved into an independent band. Kaukonen and Casady remained the core of Hot Tuna, with many other musicians coming and going as the band alternated repeatedly between acoustic and electric formats. Hot Tuna performed live between 1969 and 1977; in 1983; and from 1986 to present. Hot Tuna's seventh and most recent studio album is 2011's Steady as She Goes.

Headlining its annual Thanksgiving-time concert at the Beacon Theatre, Hot Tuna this time played as an electric trio, augmented by drummer Justin Guip. Kaukonen had two guitars on stage; one for ripping into hard rock tunes and one for more subtle, earthy songs. As usual, the set included several compositions written by Kaukonen, but at least half of the concert was comprised of folk blues covers. Hot Tuna opened with its own "True Religion," but soon delved into vintage songs by Billy Boy Arnold, Rev. Gary Davis, Julius Daniels, Bobby Rush, Blind Blake, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Walter Davis. Throughout the set, Kaukonen's deft finger-picking style burned brightly, and Casady frequently took his bass playing out of its traditional rhythm role and into complex melodies. Hot Tuna played 21 songs over two sets in about three hours, turning virtually every song into six to twelve minute jams. Tonight, like most performances over the past 47 years together, Hot Tuna masterfully wrangled gritty, rocking tones from Americana roots, uniquely bridging the various eras of the 20th century.

Visit Hot Tuna at