Steppenwolf at The Saban

Spent an enjoyable evening with John Kay and the modern-day incarnation of Steppenwolf last night at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Celebrating his 50th year as a rock-and-roller, the trim Canadian-born Kay led his five-piece ensemble through an energetic series of Steppenwolf hits and semi-hits interspersed with a couple of new well-performed and inspiring songs.

Opening with Sookie, Sookie (as it was the first song on their very first album, if I remember correctly), John Kay’s deep, aggressive voice kept pace with not only the precise enunciation of his lyrics but seemingly effortless timing and delivery as well. During the third song, Movin’ On, the band showed video behind the stage of exactly the same song some forty-five years earlier sung by a much-younger and shades-wearing Kay. The timing was obviously made to be remarkably similar and it was fun to go back-and-forth during its presentation. The modern-day Kay has shed his dark glasses.

Always been a fan of not only the band’s music but of their lyrics as well, they present a politically and socially motivated posture, generally commenting on the morays of those times (1960s and 70s). One tune, Monster, received a standing ovation for its then-and-now patriotic timeliness. In my opinion, it’s the best song they ever did. They showed historical video behind the long number starting from 17th century exploration up through the modern-day.

“America, where are ya now? Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?
America, we need you now, we can’t fight alone against the monster.”

Truly anthemic, poignant and inspiring. Had me all choked up.

The band also played Rock Me, Hey Lawdy Mama, Who Needs Ya, Muddy Waters’ Hoochie Coochie Man, the touching Snowblind Friend, and of course Magic Carpet Ride, closing with the natural generation-defining Born to Be Wild. After a short break, they encored with The Pusher, Kay’s angry castigation of the drug peddler (“Goddamn the pusher!”).

Kay had four solid musicians backing him the entire evening, each having a chance to shine their talents through the 100-minute show and certainly left the audience wanting more as they left the stage to a standing, applauding crowd.

The entire show was opened by a short but tasteful 30 minute set by a local nine-piece band called The Hailers.

The crowd, though older as one might expect, was very well-behaved and appreciative. Those who insisted on taking phone video held their phones low so as not to disturb those around them. The sound at the Saban Theatre was excellent as well.

All in all, like I said, a very enjoyable evening with one of the giants of our generation.

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