Sunday, December 10, 2023

Carla Olson & Robert Rex Waller Jr. at McCabe’s, 12-9-23 Concert Review

Carla Olson & Robert Rex Waller Jr.
You likely know Carla Olson from her work in The Textones, and are familiar with Robert Rex Waller Jr.’s work in I See Hawks In L.A. Both have new solo albums out, and as each performs on the other’s release, it made perfect sense for the two to put on a special concert to celebrate the albums. Last night at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, Carla Olson and Rob Waller delivered a fantastic show. There were two sets, the first featuring music from Rob Waller’s new album See The Big Man Cry, the second featuring music from Carla Olson’s Have Harmony, Will Travel 3. Interestingly, both albums find the artists covering other people’s material, and both feature many of the same musicians, some of whom played at the show last night, including Paul Marshall, Skip Edwards and Ben LeCourt.

Just after 8 p.m., Robert Rex Waller Jr. was introduced, and then kicked off his set with “I’ll Never Dance Again,” a song written by Mike Anthony and Barry Mann. He was backed by two of his fellow I See Hawks In L.A. members – Paul Lacques on electric guitar and Paul Marshall on bass and backing vocals – along with Skip Edwards on keyboard and Ben LeCourt on drums and percussion. And he sported a jacket with his name printed on the back. “So that song was a hit for Bobby Rydell,” Rob Waller said afterward. He mentioned that when asking Paul Marshall about possibly covering that song on the album, Paul pulled out the 45, and that was what sold him on doing it. And it was Rob Waller’s father-in-law who suggested he cover “Reconsider Me,” which was the second song of the set last night. Paul Lacques delivered a really nice, though brief, lead on guitar, which elicited applause from the crowd. That was followed by the only original song of the set, “My Favorite Loneliness,” a beautiful number written by Rob Waller and Paul Marshall. “I couldn’t keep you but I held you for a time” is such a good line.

"I'll Never Dance Again"

Paul Lacques switched to lap steel for “Let Her Go Down,” a song written by Peter Knight. Afterward, Rob said they’ve been trying to figure out just what that song means. Like a lot of good songs, it can be taken at face value, I suppose, or can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I love when a song has a strong personal meaning that might not necessarily be shared by everyone else who hears it. He then introduced “See The Big Man Cry” as being about screwing up, “which I think we can all relate to.” Oh yes. Paul Lacques was back on electric guitar for this song, the title track of the album.

Carla Olson joined the group on backing vocals for the rest of the set, beginning with “A Woman’s Touch,” written by James Intveld and Gary Nicholson. On the album, that song is followed by “Amanda Ruth,” and last night it was as well. Rob mentioned that the first version he’d heard of this song was that by The Everly Brothers. That was the first version I heard as well, on the excellent Born Yesterday album released in the mid-1980s. This was some delicious rock and roll, and Paul Lacques got to show his prowess on electric guitar. They followed that with Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than The Rest,” with more nice work from Paul Lacques, and wrapped up the set with “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” During the introduction Carla Olson said, “Now this song this big guy sings the crap out of.” Indeed, Carla was right. It was an absolutely fantastic rendition. The first set ended at 8:52 p.m.

"A Woman's Touch"

At 9:10 p.m., Carla Olson took the stage, backed by Paul Marshall on bass, Skip Edwards on keyboard, Ben LeCourt on drums and percussion, and Jonathan Lea on electric sitar. They opened with a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man,” getting right to the rock and roll. This song, which was included on Have Harmony, Will Travel 3, featured some good stuff on keys as well as some great work on electric sitar. That was followed by “Shackles & Chains,” which Carla Olson included on Have Harmony, Will Travel 2, released a few years ago. Jonathan Lea left the stage before this one. The song had a good energy, with Skip Edwards rocking the keyboard. It was a fun one, no question. Also from Have Harmony, Will Travel 2 came “A Child’s Claim To Fame,” the Buffalo Springfield song. Gary Myrick joined the group on steel guitar, which was a treat for me, particularly as, for one reason or another, I hadn’t seen him perform before. Gary Myrick also played steel guitar on “Lead Me,” a song written by Carla Olson’s Textones band mate Joe Read, and included on Have Harmony, Will Travel 3. Carla forgot the lyrics for a moment, but it was still a great version of the song. It was shaping up to be a seriously fun set.

"Street Fighting Man"

Carla Olson mentioned that she bought the single of “I Can See For Miles” when it came out. She delivered an excellent rendition of the Who song last night. The audience sang along toward the end, repeating the title line. And Carla was rocking it at the end. After that song, Gary Myrick left the stage, and Rob Waller joined the group on acoustic guitar and vocals. Carla Olson led the band into “Look What You’ve Done,” a song she included on the first Have Harmony, Will Travel album. That was followed by beautiful renditions of “‘Til The Rivers All Run Dry” and “Gypsy Rider.” Rob Waller mentioned that Carla had recorded “Gypsy Rider” with Gene Clark for So Rebellious A Lover, which was recently re-issued on blue vinyl, and Carla commented that Gene would do it differently each time he performed it. Rob Waller was on lead vocals for this song. Interestingly, “Gypsy Rider” appears not only on Have Harmony, Will Travel 3, but also on Rob Waller’s See The Big Man Cry. Paul Lacques then joined the group on electric guitar for the final song of the set, “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulet,” an I See Hawks In L.A. song. For this one Skip Edwards switched from keyboard to accordion. Paul Marshall said, “If there’s a gun on the table in Act One…,” joking about the presence of the accordion on stage all night, and now finally being used. Rob Waller was of course also on lead vocals for this one. It was a delightful conclusion to  the set, and to the show, for there wasn’t an encore. As Carla Olson said her goodbyes, Skip Edwards played a bit of Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” on keys. The show ended at 10:03 p.m.

"I Can See For Miles"

Set List

Set I

  1. I’ll Never Dance Again
  2. Reconsider Me
  3. My Favorite Loneliness
  4. Let Her Go Down
  5. See The Big Man Cry
  6. A Woman’s Touch
  7. Amanda Ruth
  8. Tougher Than The Rest
  9. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore

Set II

  1. Street Fighting Man
  2. Shackles & Chains
  3. A Child’s Claim To Fame
  4. Lead Me
  5. I Can See For Miles
  6. Look What You’ve Done
  7. ‘Til The Rivers All Run Dry
  8. Gypsy Rider
  9. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulet

Here are a few more photos from the show:

"I'll Never Dance Again"

"Reconsider Me"

"Tougher Than The Rest"

"Street Fighting Man" 

"A Child's Claim To Fame"

"Look What You've Done"

"Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulet"

McCabe’s is located at 3101 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, California.

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