by MIKE CHAIKEN
The Doobie Brothers have a lot of faith in their fans.
And the fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 11 proved that faith is well-deserved.
The Doobie Brothers, pre-Michael McDonald and the Grammy-winning “Minute by Minute,” have become one of the pillars of American classic rock.
“China Grove,” “Listen to the Music,” “Jesus is All Right,” the list of songs you hear on classic rock radio day after day from The Doobie Brothers is long and storied.
But at the Mohegan Sun gig, the Doobies—who did play those classic tracks and more while wowing the crowd as they did so—took the plunge and went “deep” for this performance.
The Doobie Brothers had a two-night residency at the Beacon Theater in New York City this week. And at those shows, the band was set to play– from beginning to end its 1972 album “Toulouse Street” on night one and on the second night, 1973’s “The Captain and Me.”
Both albums helped introduce the world to the Doobie Brothers thanks to—on “Toulouse Street,” the aforementioned “Listen to the Music” and “Rockin’ Down the Highway;” and on “The Captain and Me,”, the aforementioned “China Grove” as well as “Long Train Runnin’.”
However, both of those albums have a lot stellar deep tracks that typically aren’t played, and definitely aren’t regular residents on their concert set lists.
So, for the band to risk alienating fans by playing tracks that they might not have heard since the 1970s if at all, the Doobie Brothers were taking a risk that their audience would follow them along this journey.
However, except for a smattering of catcalls urging the Doobies to play “the good stuff,” more than half the set list featured “deep tracks.”
And, the unsung songs of the Doobie Brothers clearly demonstrated why we’re still listening to the group nearly 50 years after they banded together when they initially were the house band for motorcycle gang, the Hell’s Angels.
Although I took time to brush up on “Toulouse Street” and “Captain and Me” prior to checking out the show, I still loved the live kick of—in particular— “Evil Woman,” “Cottonmouth,” “Ukiah,” and the evening’s opener “Natural Thing.” These deep tracks showed the diversity and agility of the Doobies as mined different music textures on those earlier albums.
For the most part, this incarnation of the Doobies—longtime member Patrick Simmons, original singer and guitarist Tom Johnston, and guitarist multi-instrumentalist John McPhee—steered clear of the Michael McDonald years— except for “Takin’ It to the Streets” (from the album of the same name, and on which Johnston still had a small role).
They focused on the rock, not the soul.
The entire band was on top of the game. Sidemen sax player Marc Russo and keyboardist Bill Payne also demonstrated clearly why Simmons, Johnston, and McPhee wanted them by their side on the road.
Whether they were performing the unsung tracks or the celebrated hits, the Doobie Brothers concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena was a classic rock party for the jam-packed crowd. The group demonstrated why the Doobie Brothers are one of the great groups in American rock history.
And the positive audience reaction demonstrated that Doobie Brothers’ fans are loyal to the core. After all, they love listening to the music.
I give the Doobie Brothers at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 11, 3 ½ out of 4 stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN