Eric Burdon is one of the best of the blues-inflected British Invasion singers, and he can still crank it out on occasion. This was evidenced by his performance Tuesday night at the Hamburg Fairgrounds with the latest edition of the Animals, the moniker of Burdon's original band, minus the other original members.
When he wrapped his vocal chords around John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom," Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul" or Bo Diddley's "Mona," there was a sense of restrained power, the feeling of a singer whose elemental skills have matured past the shouting stage and developed into a controlled blast. There was a rumble packed into each syllable, and the man worked it hard.
Those were the best moments, and the packed crowd in attendance at the show gave him, and the band, their due. But then again, the audience went up at nearly everything Burdon and the Animals played. The singer and the fans both had old tales to tell, but Burdon was the focal point, the one on stage enabling the audience to get in touch with earlier lives by drawing the listener into memories and myths.
"When I Was Young" was the first tune in the hourlong set, and while it was a fairly big hit with Animals fans many years past, there was perhaps an unintended irony involved with listening to it in the here and now.
The younger Burdon was playing at hard-won sensibilities, while the present-day Burdon had the gray hair and road-hardened demeanor that come with years lived and experiences endured.
The youthful emotions behind the original versions of "Don't Bring Me Down," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" spoke of rebellion when they first came out, but now they brought an inherently different view into sight, whether the band and the players thought it all through or not. Nowadays it appears that these pleas are couched in terms of innocence lost.
Burdon's most glaring entry into nostalgia came via the psychedelicized "San Franciscan Nights" with its lyric about a "warm San Francisco night," a truly rare occurrence that has been remarked upon for decades. (Mark Twain's quote, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco," remains one of the wittiest comments about that subject on or off record.)
It should be noted that this edition of the Animals was populated by some mighty talented musicians. Guitarist Billy Watts and keyboard whiz Red Young were nigh unto amazing, and the rhythm section of bassist Terry Wilson and drummer Brannen Temple were clicking on all cylinders.
Eric Burdon and the Animals
Tuesday night at the Hamburg Fairgrounds