Driving to Des Moines, Iowa from the twin cities, I wondered what taking in a show by It's A Beautiful Day would be like after all these years, given I hadn't seen them since July of 1971. Sure, I've heard concert tapes over the years but this would be different... up close and personal so to speak.
As I left town, I realized I wasn't going to get to Iowa any time soon. I wondered if there was any place in Minnesota where there wasn't road construction. After it took 2 hours to go 25 miles I was on my way. So I popped in a IABD cd and off I went. On the drive down I searched my recollection for IABD memories and how the band's unique sound and lyrics had drawn me in and stayed with me, especially thru a tour in Uncle Sam's army. Could this version of the band stir those once forgotten memories.
Saturday was concert day and at the hotel I found the band members, we chatted, got a bite to eat and later I was able to hitch a ride to the venue with the band. Once at the Val Air Ballroom, I was greeted by the sound of the Tyler Thompson Band. This Des Moines area jam band has come into some notoriety of its own lately, having recorded their latest CD, Living On The Border in Macon, Georgia. The band is now playing dates with Phil Lesh & Friends, The Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule. Listening to the boys this evening I could hear the influences of the Allman Brothers and the sound was very good. It is no wonder why this particular band has been asked to tour with some heavy weights in the blues/rock genre.
But hey, I digress. It was now time for David & Linda Laflamme, et. al. - a.k.a. It's A Beautiful Day. The show opened with a haunting version of Don & Dewey and the dust didn't settle until things slowed down a bit with Girl With No Eyes. The first set ended with the band's signature tune... White Bird. This tune was a treat because it was arranged differently from past versions with a new ending. It also took the audience by surprise when they found out they were cheering and hooting prior to the song being concluded.
Lead vocals are still provided by David and Linda Laflamme and I kind of wondered how the volcals would sound, after all I hadn't heard the vocals live for over 30 years. Let me just say I was not disappointed. Another unknown for me was the rythym section of Rob Espinosa on lead guitar, Toby Gray on bass, Gary Thomas on keyboards, and the original drummer of the band, Val Fuentes, who is still one of the great drummers on the rock scene. These guys cooked and did stretch out on occasion. Lest I forget, Mr. Laflamme has not lost a beat on the electric violin either. He was able to lead a number of jams throughout the night with extended violin solos. The band might be older, but they can still captivate an audience.
The second set opened with a few instrumentals where the band was able to stretch out and there was a nice tune I had not heard before that was a tribute to Santana...Mambo. At this point it was Linda's time to shine with the song Who's Gonna Love Me, which showcased her strong vocal work with the band. The set ended with Swept Away, one of my Laflamme favorites from the post circa 67-72 IABD. The encore included Time Is and revisitingWhite Bird. The show ended with a standing ovation and a very pleased upper midwest audience.
The Des Moines audience was a mixed bag of concert goers. Obviously, there were some folks who came to hear the Tyler Thompson Band, but there also were many old IABD faithfuls and curious younger folks who were thoroughly entertained. And yes, like 30 years ago there were people dancing in the isles...maybe a bit older but enjoying themselves nonetheless. As the band played on, the band and the crowd seemed to get energy from one another up through the last chord played.
The 2002 version of the band are all seasoned professionals and the sound is incredible. These folks have endured many hardships over the years, yet they still come to entertain...and entertain they do. It was a fun evening and the Laflammes have put together a winning combination. Let's hope that we in the mid-west can be treated to this music again in the near future. Thirty years between gigs is much too long of a wait.
David Laflamme - Electric Violin & Lead Vocals
Linda Laflamme - Percussion & Lead Vocals
Val Fuentes - Drums & Vocals
Toby Gray - Bass & Vocals
Rob Espinosa - Lead Guitar & Vocals
Gary Thomas - Keyboards & Vocals
Don & Dewey
Creed Of Love
Hot Summer Day
Girl With No Eyes
Where Flamingos Fly
Grand Camel Suite
Who's Gonna Love me
Pick Up Sticks