Cathy Richardson Band

Summer of Love Review


Nostalgia concerts are always iffy. Most of the time, the founding members are either dead or retired, so the bands exist in name only.

Those bands that still contain a handful of original players, well, often it would save everyone some embarrassment to simply put them out to pasture.

There's a little of both happening on the "Summer of Love" tour, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the San Francisco-based hippie movement of sharing free love, music and inhalants. And also one breathtaking surprise that is worth the ticket price alone.

The lineup of David and Linda LaFlamme (doing the music of It's a Beautiful Day), Tom Constanten, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Jefferson Starship immediately inspires either glassy-eyed wistfulness or cringing, depending on your era.

For the few hundred gathered at Toad's Place on Thursday -- including about 60 patrons seated near the front of the stage -- it was mostly the former.

Quicksilver Messenger Service, devotees of the jam, began with the well-known "Fresh Air." A surprisingly soulful growl emanated from singer David Freiberg, who, with his cotton-ball hair and glasses, evoked the physical memory of Jerry Garcia.

Guitarist Gary Duncan, drummer Prairie Prince, singer Linda Imperial, bassist Bobby Vega and keyboardist Chris Smith all exercised their versatility with the rockabilly stomper "Mona."

Though Quicksilver played only five songs in its 45-minute set, by the middle of its last, "What About Me," it was obvious that Freiberg was fading -- though he injected enough juice into the "I smoke marijuana" line to elicit fond cheers.

When Big Brother and the Holding Co. took the stage, the garish glitter shirt worn by original bassist Peter Albin was a bad omen in itself. But then Janis Joplin replacement Cathy Richardson opened her mouth and . . . wow.

Standing in sparkly flip-flops among the men onstage, Richardson belted "Down on Me," flinging her blond hair and unleashing a tsunami from her iron lungs. This woman -- a Chicago-based artist who starred in the off-Broadway production of "Love, Janis" -- doesn't merely imitate Joplin. She channels her thoroughly, effortlessly and respectfully.

The woozy, winding "Summertime" spotlighted original guitarist Sam Andrew's nimble playing and Richardson's haunting -- for many reasons -- voice, while their duet of "Call on Me" shimmered.

Remember how fantastic Melissa Etheridge's version of "Piece of My Heart" was at the 2005 Grammy Awards ceremony? Quadruple that and you have Richardson's.

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