Delbert McClinton came to St. Louis last night. The first time I saw him perform was in 1979, but he’s now 74 and I figured this might be my last chance, so my friend Bob Russell and I went down to the Sheldon Concert Hall to see him — and we were not disappointed. Delbert performed in front of his six-piece band, which made for a tight fit on the Sheldon’s small-ish stage, but they made it work, and the always-perfect acoustics in that room allowed us to bask in the sound of one of the best shows I’ve seen in awhile.
I first became aware of Delbert through The Blues Brothers, who did one of his songs, “B Movie Box Car Blues” on their debut album. Last night, when someone shouted it out, Delbert turned to the band, nodded his head, and they launched right into it. Throughout the two-hour show, he didn’t seem to have a pre-arranged set list. Rather, he seemed to call out each song as he went along, culled from his nearly 50-year career, and the band kept right with him. They were tight all night, taking turns playing solos and fitting together like a group of real pros should.
I could sit all night and listen to Delbert and his great Texas-roadhouse band, complete with guitar, bass, horn section, and a Hammond B3 organ. Halfway through the set, Delbert left the stage and let the band take over for a few songs, including a blazing rendition of Buddy Miles’ “Marbles” led by saxophonist Dana Robbins. Then he returned to sing a few more before finishing to a standing ovation and a two-song encore that left all of us walking out with a smile.