Popa Chubby is a big man. At first glance, as he walks on the stage with his bass player and drummer, you get a sense of his size. We’re talking WWE big, supervillain big; but from the moment he sits down and straps on his guitar – you realize that this is a man born to play with the best of them.
I must confess that on Time For The Blues we haven’t played Popa Chubby. Simply because we only have one album – and a very old one at that. But after watching him perform at Richmond’s Tin Pan, I can honestly tell you that we will be adding all of his previous album, plus the new one that is scheduled to be released shortly.
Chubby is backed by a tight rhythm section comprised of Conrad St. Clair on bass and Dave Moore on drums. Chubby handles all the guitar parts and the vocals with Moore adding a few harmony vocals along the way. What’s the most incredible about this tight sounding trio is that St. Clair has only been with the group for a couple of weeks. He may still be finding his way, but he plays like he has been with them for years.
Mixing blistering runs with strong vocals and adding more than a touch of crowd work, Chubby connects with his audience almost forcing a middle of the week crowd to spontaneously clap, chair dance, and call out their enthusiasm. He followed up a great song (I’ve Got The Working Class Blues) which included inducing the crowd to clap with a dead on cover of Jimi Hendrix’ Hey Joe. He received his first standing ovation for his efforts.
It wasn’t the last.
Honestly I stopped counting after the fifth standing ovation and if you add in the fact that most people continued to stand through the last three songs and you get the idea that Chubby rocked The Tin Pan.
Chubby and company were determined to put on the strongest show possible as they are gearing up for an extended tour of Europe. At one point he announced that he had “40 songs on the playlist,” which garnered cheers from the audience. He had to tell them “don’t worry. We can’t play all of them tonight, we’d be here till three in the morning.”
All in all, the group played extended jams of about 16 songs, including the title track to his soon to be released new album, Catfish. For that number he added a little slide. Afterwards, a tired young man went to leave with his family, and Chubby engaged him in a little small talk and got the young man to give him five while the audience cheered.
Clearly this is a man who can handle himself with all ages, shapes, sizes, and all the other variables that affect human beings.
For me, one of the highlights of the evening was the group covering an old Freddie King tune, I’ve Got The Same Old Blues. Written by three great songwriters: Leon Russell, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Don Nix, the song starts out quiet and slow moving and builds upwards. It’s a great showcase song and Chubby did a great job with it.
As the group neared the end, they pulled out all the stops, taking great songs and giving them the blues rock treatment. How often do you hear a funked up version of the Theme From The Godfather segueing into some excellent Dick Dale surf music, transitioning into Over The Rainbow and a couple of other songs on top?
They ended with Rock Me All Night Long and Going Down and left to the last standing ovation of the night.
Europe will be lucky to see them on tour, but you can still catch them in the states for a while. If you see them coming to a venue anywhere near you, get those tickets and catch this show. It'