Anders Osborne, the patron saint of New Orleans guitar rock, returned to Tipitina’s last weekend to headline his second annual “Holiday Spectacular.” Osborne was joined by a slew of legendary musicians, both local and national, to kick off the holiday season on a loud and raucous note for New Orleans’ newest holiday tradition.
Anders Osborne has been blowing away local crowds for more than twenty years with his sweet growl of a voice, interesting and dynamic songs, and explosive guitar playing, but recently, he’s been spending more time on the road than at home. A string of great albums, as well as the incendiary live performances he’s known for, have made Anders one of the most sought after guitarists in the jam band scene. Phil Lesh, bassist from the Grateful Dead, even invited Anders on his most recent “Phil Lesh and Friends” tour, where he was able to add his expressive playing, as well as some of his original songs, to the acclaimed shows.
The show started with Anders’ core band (with the welcome addition of John “Papa” Gros on keys) getting loud and loose with “Five Bullets” before easing into “Ya Ya,” which featured some tasteful slide guitar in an extended instrumental jam. Luther Dickinson, guitarist from North Mississippi Allstars, emerged as the first guest of the night for “Windows” and brilliantly complemented Anders’ playing with his own blues-based slide work. Dickinson and Anders have developed a great style from years of playing together, managing to share guitar shredding duties without ever stepping on each other’s toes.
The next guest, Paul Barrere, brought back the Little Feat groove, which made his band famous in the 70s, for a rendition of his classic track “Spanish Moon.” Barrere has not lost an ounce of his blues-meets-New Orleans style, and the rest of the band seemed to mold themselves around him whenever he took the lead. A two song acoustic detour closed the first set, serving as an appropriate contrast to the loud opening.
The second set brought some deeper jams, with most of the guest players (including local favorites: Billy Iuso and Jonny Sansone) joining in on almost all of the songs. After opening with the title track of Anders’ new album, Peace, Billy Iuso came out and added some acoustic strums to the Anders classic “Burning on the Inside.” John Gros, who took a back seat for most of the night, stepped out to sing lead on the funkiest jam of the night and got everyone wishing for a Papa Grows Funk reunion (Jazz Fest maybe?).
The show reached a stunning climax as Paul Barrere led a spot on rendition of “Dixie Chicken” that featured all of the guests and got everyone singing the timeless chorus. The show should have ended there, and whoever invited Taylor Hicks (yeah, American Idol Taylor Hicks) probably should have known better than to put him on the sacred stage of Tip’s. Thankfully, Anders got the last word with a dynamic solo that went from barely a whisper to a screaming crescendo in less than 30 seconds.
Considering all of the well-deserved national attention Anders has been getting recently, it’s reassuring to know he still has a place in his heart for the city he calls home. His two-night celebration of music and friends will surely return next year to bring more holiday cheer, along with a heaping side of blazing hot jams, to the NOLA faithful.
Check out “47” from Anders Osborne’s recent album, Peace: