Seeing a legendary musician play live in and of itself is a rewarding experience, but sharing that event with an inebriated band of exuberant fans is something else entirely.
Taj Mahal's March 29 performance at the Lucas Theatre was a strangely wonderful happening.
The Savannah Music Festival does an excellent job of setting an academic, or clinical, staging of its acts. It always seems there should be PBS cameras in the back. This, of course, is in no way a derogatory remark on the festival.
The styles of music that are explored and shared in the festival often bequeath a setting suited to their nature. Hearing a quartet explore Brahms' F Major Quintet was designed to be digested from a seated position.
However, rock 'n' roll was made for dancing. Therein lies the source of confusion at Mahal's performance in Savannah.
The soul of rock has always been the blues, and bluesmen like to see girls dance. Well, also, they like if the woman doesn't take all their money, break their heart and lets them be the boss, etc.
Perhaps it was the opening act that lulled the intoxicated crowd into a frenzy. A scene that later exploded, invoking 1950s Iowa, or better yet, the iconic Kevin Bacon in "Footloose."
John Simon, a longtime friend of Mahal, has had an illustrious career in the music industry. He has produced some great albums for names like Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin and The Band.
His musical prowess and talent on the piano are admirable and garner respect, but his repertoire to open the Mahal show was pedestrian. It did not, however, call for the rude reaction of drunken Mahal fans that asked for his resignation with shouts of "Taj!" "Where's Taj?" and "Give us Taj."
Simon was insulted, as he should be, and cut his set short. Ironically, when he joined Mahal for the last three songs of an hour and forty minute set, he was heralded with cheers for his rocking piano solos. Redemption through the eyes of drunk goggles.
Two songs into Mahal's set list and it became apparent there would be trouble in River City.
A few people began shaking in their seats. A woman stood up and starting gyrating. The real revolution was sparked by a couple who used the aisle as their own dance stage.
Regardless of attempts to quell the rock 'n' rollers from the "dance police" (several very nice, older volunteers for the festival), the dancing continued without regard. And then came a jam. It wasn't long before the entire orchestra level was up and moving.
Well, not the entire audience. In the confusion of whether to join the dance-dance revolution, a portion of attendees stayed seated. Subsequently, two groups were formed: the dancers and the sitters.
The Taj Mahal Trio loved it. They extended the jam for extra minutes to embellish the crowd. As all good things do, the song ended, and the revilers reclaimed their seats - for the most part. Several of the rebel rousers continued to dance for the entirety of the set.
Mahal was vibrant for the performance. He showcased the length of genres he's explored in his four decades of music making with an amplified dobro, acoustic/electric guitar, a ukelele and a banjo. (Note: Blues on the banjo was perhaps the coolest thing I've ever heard live.)
From country blues to ukelele tunes, the trio was a remarkable show from master musicians. Mahal engaged the crowd, and even enticed the dancing by answering a heckler shouting request with, "And what you going do if I play it?"
The show continued without much incident. At some point, the "dance police" relaxed and seemed to enjoy the show just as much as the revolters.
That seemed to be the point.
Regardless of what your capacity was at the show, or incapacitation, the Taj Mahal Trio was a thing of brilliance. It's only too bad there were no PBS cameras.