Band: Little Feat: “Waiting for Columbus Tour”
Date: Wednesday, March 23, at 8 p.m.
Venue: Saenger Theatre, 6 S. Joachim St., asmglobalmobile.com
Tickets: $34.50-$79.50, available through Ticketmaster
Forty-five years ago, Little Feat released the band’s first live album, “Waiting for Columbus.” Recorded over the course of seven shows, “Waiting for Columbus” set new standards for jamming in the live environment, which have been embraced by bands over the decades.
Little Feat will be returning to the Azalea City to celebrate the release of this iconic live collection. The crowd can expect this legendary jam band with a jazzy edge to fill the Jewel of Joachim with “Waiting for Columbus” cuts refreshed with everchanging jams that will make each tour stop a unique experience. Little Feat founding member/pianist Bill Payne discussed the past, present and future of “Waiting for Columbus” and Little Feat with Lagniappe Music Editor Steve Centanni.
Steve Centanni: You guys have been getting ready for this “Waiting for Columbus” anniversary tour. What’s it been like revisiting this tracklist and prepping it for the live environment?
Bill Payne: Well, fortunately, we play a lot of them in our show anyway. There wasn’t a lot to truly examine. We went with something that management asked us to consider doing in November, and we did. We did “Little Feat by Request.” So, we were playing a lot of songs that were outside that realm, which in its own way made it easier when we went back to “Waiting for Columbus.” We’re not here to replicate it. Some do these live albums note for note. We’re not doing that. It wouldn’t be Little Feat if we did.
We’re going to take these songs and have a different set of jams each night. We might have guests from time to time. We have a horn section, which is always cool. Some nights, I might have Jay Collins, the sax player, play at the end of “Oh, Atlanta” and one night, maybe not. We’re going to keep it fresh and might even approach, later in the year, some of these songs as acoustic numbers. I want to keep it full of surprises. We’re all going to keep open the encore section to play either songs from the extended version of “Waiting of Columbus” or “Let It Roll” or “Long Distance Love.” We’ll have a free zone there to see what we want to do. Overall, I want to keep it fresh.
Centanni: What do you think it is about some of these songs that make them so timeless?
Payne: That’s a very good question. First and foremost, I think the songs themselves are timeless in that they don’t necessarily represent a period of time, right? “Dixie Chicken” could’ve been recorded last week. It’s not like a hit song that somebody recorded where someone would say, “It’s cool, but it sounds dated.” I think it holds true on most of these songs.
Centanni: With the original release, you went through seven shows to cull the tracks that would become your first live album. What would you say was your favorite night and why?
Payne: I would be lying if I could tell you the answer to that [laughs], because it’s been 45 years. I don’t remember which was my favorite night, to be honest with you. We had some really great nights at Lisner Auditorium [in Washington, D.C.], which is where a lot of these songs are from. We were almost in the realm of rock stars back in London. That’s not who we are, but when you got the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Page [Led Zeppelin], I don’t even know if they were at the concert, but we know that these people liked us a lot. That kind of adoration is really amazing. I ran into Keith Richards [Rolling Stones] two years before that. I was like, “Oh, my God! It’s Keith Richards!” He was like, “We’re all from the same cloth.” That was his way of saying, “Hey, you’re one of us.” I was like, “Wow! How cool is that?” It’s in the tracks.
We’re not a jazz band, but we have a jazz band mentality. We’ll rehearse something, record it and play it. Then, six months to a year later, we might say, “Hey, let’s try this with this arrangement.” Some people just get locked into, “This is the way that we recorded, and that’s how we’re gonna play it.” That’s a way to approach music as well. It’s just never been the way that Little Feat has approached it.
Centanni: That’s one thing that I’m looking forward to with this tour. It just goes hand in hand with your music. Speaking of jamming, I’ve been listening to the rerelease of “Fatman in the Bathtub.” Can we expect more rereleases?
Payne: There are starting to be reissues of most of our albums from Warner Brothers that are in the works right now. So, Warner has jumped on board with us to reissue a lot of stuff, including “Waiting for Columbus.” In the line of recording, I’ve written 20 songs with Robert Hunter, of which four were on the “Rooster Rag” album in 2012. There’s another 16, and we’re not going to record all of them, but we’ll do a song or three that we wrote. I’ve been writing with Paul Muldoon, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and just edited Paul McCartney’s book of lyrics [“The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present”]. He’s a great guy.
John Leventhal and I have written one song, so far. I might dive in with another one if he wants to. He’s married to Rosanne Cash and is a great producer and a wonderful player and, obviously, a great songwriter. Then, there’s a guy that you might know, who is Charlie Starr from Blackberry Smoke. Charlie and I have written two songs, and they’re really good. We’re doing a PBS special in March. Charlie, Rosanne and John are all doing it with us. That’s not why I invited them to write. I didn’t know about the special until much later.
We’ve got a really great management company, Vector Management out of Nashville. Ken Levitan is head of that. Then, there’s a guy named Brian Penix, who is our day-to-day [manager]. We’ve got really great people backing us up. It just makes things so much easier, as you can imagine, when you’re trying to continue a trajectory with a band. It’s being musicians and reaching an audience. How do you do that on your own? You need people knocking on the doors, having them answered and then being able to walk into the next room. That’s been the beauty of working with Vector, so far.
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