m_1d9a934259ec4824ad63939893c566afYou should have been there. After all, it had been been nearly 31 years. Last Saturday Darryl Rhoades and The Hahavishnu Orchestra staged a “celebration” concert, their first show together since October of ’78.

The show took place at a packed Variety Playhouse in Atlanta’s Little Five Points.  Along with Rhoades, four original members of the group joined with five new collaborators to remind us of what we’ve missed all these decades. The musicians and back-up singers performed with great style. What a tight unit. They’re terrific on-stage partners to Rhoades as he sings, makes jokes and displays superb physical prowess in a two and a half hour show. Yes, we’ve really missed this ensemble.

Introduced by legendary TV comic Bill Tush, Rhoades and company launched into the standard opener, “Suicide Soul.” Saxophonist Jonny Hibbert, justifiably front and center, gave the lighthearted number the Stax/Volt charge, getting the evening off to a familiar and rousing start. The momentum was maintained as  Rhoades and crew offered up such favorites as “Burgers From Heaven,” “A Mortician’s Dream Come True,” “This Song Is Boring” and “Shaft on Welfare.” Commanding the stage with incredible energy, Rhoades kept the audience laughing at the plot lines of the songs and his humorous asides. The lines got laughs when Gerald Ford was president and did so again. That said, reliance on the favorites was not all that made the evening exciting.

Early in the show, Rhoades and band swung into “Addiction To Friction,” the opening cut off his new album, “Weapons Of Mass Deception.” Rhoades said the new album had sold in the dozens. Now some of the hundreds at the show will want to check it out. “Addiction To Friction” is a straight ahead rocker with tons of attitude.  Think of a mean-spirited Roy Orbison cruising for chicks. Rhoades is still adept at creating one-of-a-kind images.

Two of the new Hahavishnu members at the concert, lead guitarist Tommy Strain and vocalist Deborah Reece also appear on the new album. They had a tremendous impact on the show. Strain hits the notes like Robert Mitchum hit the hills on “Thunder Road.” Reece took the show to an even higher level with her amazing voice and incredible stage presence. Rhoades and company were not simply staging a reunion; they were busy creating new excitement.

As the show drew to a close, rockers such as “I Wanna Be Normal” and “The Lights Are On” were played with great intensity, as were the encores “Coat Hanger” and “Surfin’ Shark.” Yes, these guys are really good.  And it would be good to see them again.

After the show, Jimmy Royals, the singer in drag who sang the Helen Reddy parody, spoke of what a thrill it was to play with the band again. The multi-talented Royals (he also played keyboards and trombone) was a big part of the evening’s fun. Hopefully this show was not our last chance to see Darryl Rhoades and The Hahavishnu Orchestra. However, if it was, Royals wants to know if anyone is interested in buying a slightly used evening dress.

Darryl Rhoades on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/darrylrhoades

Jeff Cochran

Jeff Cochran

Jeff Cochran worked in advertising at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 27 years before accepting a buy-out in the Summer of 2008. In the seventies/early eighties, he handled advertising for Peaches Records and Tapes' Southeastern and Midwestern stores. He also wrote record reviews for The Great Speckled Bird, a ground-breaking underground newspaper based in Atlanta.