1st Anniversary of Publication of
“Fleetwood Mac in Chicago January 4th 1969 – The Legendary Chess Blues Sessions”
By Jeff Lowenthal & Robert Schaffner (Schiffer Publishing)
November 12th 2023, a chilly Sunday night in Chicago, but inside Reggie’s Chicago, the atmosphere was warm and the music was hot.
“Legendary” Jeff Lowenthal (photographer) and Robert Schaffner (author) were celebrating the first anniversary of the release of their book “Fleetwood Mac in Chicago January 4th 1969 – The Legendary Chess Blues Sessions” with a book signing and concert featuring the music of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
The music was supplied by Todd & Connie’s Acoustic Thing (an acoustic duo) and then a full band, Ricky Liontones and the Blues Crusaders.
Todd & Connie’s Acoustic Thing got the festivities off to a great start with a seven song set drawing from the songbooks of Danny Kirwan and Peter Green, wrapping up their set with a John Mayall cover.
Todd Beebe kicked off the set with a beautiful rendition of Kirwan’s ‘Dust’.
He then switched gears and ripped through a rollicking version of Green’s ‘If You Be My Baby’ (featuring a delightful solo break).
After that, he slowed things down once again with ‘Woman of a 1,000 Years’, bringing the number to a close with a wonderful extended coda.
This was followed by a spirited take on ‘Stop Messin’ ‘Round’, given a new arrangement for two acoustic guitars.
Then came ‘A Love That Burns’ – a bold choice, as it is a signature song of Green’s and his fans have a very specific expectation as to how it “should” sound. Todd’s take honored the spirit of the original while putting his own spin on the number.
Having safely crossed that high wire, the duo went into ‘Although the Sun Is Shining’ which was a natural for them.
They closed their set with a track from Peter Green’s days as a Bluesbreaker (a nice surprise) which featured Connie on trumpet (a nicer surprise!), ‘Top of the Hill’
After a brief intermission, Ricky Liontones and The Blues Crusaders took the stage. The Blues Crusaders are: Curtis Meissner: guitar, Chris Herman: guitar, Rob Herman: bass and Chris Avgerin on drums.
Like Todd & Connie’s Acoustic Thing, they too opened with a Danny Kirwan number, ‘One Sunny Day’ (there are no known live recordings of Fleetwood Mac performing the number so it was a treat hearing it live); from there they went into another Kirwan song, ‘Jewel Eyed Judy’ which featured a great solo break.
There was a brief break as Curtis Meissner switched from an original, low serial numbered, Hamer Explorer to a Stratocaster for the next number, ‘Long Grey Mare’ a nice showcase for both him and bassist Rob Herman. Looking at Rob Herman’s large hands, I remember thinking that he could probably easily cover twelve strings, never mind the four that he was popping to keep the number percolating!
Then came the first surprise of their set, a storming cover of Clapton-era Bluesbreakers’ ‘Little Girl’ with the band doubling down on the original’s arrangement (based of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Forty-Four’).
This was followed by a beautiful requiem to Robert Schaffner’s uncle, an expansive version of ‘Sunny Side of Heaven’ (a showcase for guitarist Chris Herman)
‘Tell Me All the Things You Do’ was next up, with the band providing plenty of wind for Ricky Liontones’ sails. As the number built in intensity, the band segued seamlessly into Nazz’s ‘Open My Eyes’ the two songs fitting hand in glove.
With the audience now pumped, they rolled out ‘Black Magic Woman’ (with a nice Curtis Meissner solo) and then ‘Oh Well Part One’ in quick succession.
They brought the night to a fitting close with a Kirwan / Green one two punch of ‘Like It This Way’ and ‘Albatross’.
A shout-out to drummer Chris Avgerin who, like Charlie Watts, laid the foundation for the band and kept the beat without ever calling attention to himself.
This was a such a special night as the book being celebrated was a true labor of love, and a gift to all fans of the Peter Green-era of Fleetwood Mac and we were celebrating not only the book, but the two men who brought it to life, Jeff Lowenthal and Robert Schaffner and the musicians that they honored with their work.
I am grateful to have been part of the celebration.
Bravo Todd & Connie’s Acoustic Thing and Ricky Liontones and the Blues Crusaders.
Todd Beebe :