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The City Journals

Review: Little Feat’s 50th Anniversary Tour at Red Butte? Fabulous, Fun

Jun 06, 2019 01:21PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Homonyms (same sound/different meaning) and homographs (same sound/different meaning) aplenty as iconic band Little Feat kept the crowd on its feet at Red Butte Ampitheatre—“A great place to play!” (Jennifer J. Johnson/City Journals)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

Consistently underrated, but considered artists with one of the best rock albums ever, earthy, iconic Little Feat rolled into Red Butte last night, Wednesday, June 5. 

The concert, part of the “Little Feat 50thAnniversary Tour,” was the second of 31 shows for the 2019 Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series. Red Butte offers up another show tonight of a very different nature—The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s concert version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” 

Such variety is the spice of the summer concert series at Red Butte.

‘Great place to play!’ – in all senses of the word

“Great place to play!” was band co-founder and lead man Bill Payne’s tribute to Red Butte Garden Ampitheatre and the sellout crowd.

It was, definitely, a case of mutual admiration, with the weather cooperating with full, pleasant sun and the lower-bowl of Red Butte’s 6,000-capacity venue on its feet for much, to most of the concert, taking a break during the band’s 20-minute hiatus. 

It is nice to have a formal break at Red Butte shows, to enjoy the beauty of the venue, as well as, truly, the best part of Red Butte—reconnecting with friends and making new friends, whether on the lawn, in line, or along one of Salt Lake’s informal boardwalks—the walkway dividing the lower and upper bowl of the venue. (Echoing Payne, with a homograph interpretation? The Red Butte Ampitheatre is a great place to “play!”)

Beyond the break? The band played hard and sweet, making the audience not miss an opening act and feeling sated, even inspired.

A true feat, describing Little Feat

Many of music’s household names—Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page—all cite Little Feat as their favorite band. Iconic “Rolling Stone” former editor Ben Fong-Torres was the first to write a book about them and his colleague Ed Ward considers himself as “rescuing” the band by writing about them. 

While never having a hit single, the band has amazing depth in terms of truly lyric rock. Their songs tell stories, with words and rhythms that, like velcro, stick in a good, intentional, informative way.

At Red Butte, Little Feat performed with great technical accuracy and fun. Being up close with the band, the collegial nature is contagious, with dueling guitars and drummer Gabe Ford’s glamming for the camera in the background, having fun with being a “backman” to Payne’s “frontman.” 

The Little Feat flow to keep fans on their feet

The band paced its show marvelously, climaxing with its greatest hit—a hard-jamming rendition of “Dixie Chicken” at the show’s pre-encore end. The title song from the band’s third album (1973) is, perhaps, what  Ward thinks of, in deeming the band the archetypal 1970s band. 

The band opened well, loading the bases with “Time Loves a Hero,” “Down on the Farm,” “One Breath at a Time,” delivering throaty vocals and displaying the clear influence the band’s annual fan concerts in Jamaica have on the music.  

The show really found its stride with the inspired performance of “Sailin’ Shoes.” The title song from the group’s second album (1972), the song showcased Sam “I Am” Clayton’s sweet percussion, and signaled the crowd’s being “all in” with the concert. 

The band’s epic performance of “Willin’” (1971) highlighted Payne’s killer keyboards, more dueling strings, and an inspired “Tequilla” intermission. The performance of this song alone seemed to tell Little Feat’s whole musical story: Written just two years into the group’s 50-year journey, re-recorded by ardent fans of the band like Linda Ronstadt (1974) and Jackson Browne/Lucius (2016), and still relevant today.