With Little Feat, acoustic still means electrifying

January 01, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Say what you will about Little Feat's recorded output -- and as any fan will tell you, there's quite a lot to be said for the band's albums -- but where the group ultimately comes into its own is onstage. Live. Playing to an audience. Reacting to a crowd.

"Things happen live that just don't seem to happen in the studio," says Feat guitarist Paul Barrere. Speaking over the phone from his home in Woodland Hills, Calif., he says that the first thing he notices about the band's concert recordings is that on stage the band tends to play its songs just "a little bit quicker."

"I guess it's the adrenal glands acting up, or what have you," he chuckles. "Things happen live that just don't seem to happen in the studio. Guys will take more chances. There's something about being in a studio and seeing the red light come on; you think, 'Well, I can try this idea, but this is costing us $300 a hour and I don't want to waste anybody's time. So I'll go for the safe idea.'

"Live is just a different approach."

Maybe that's why the Feat have decided to step into the new year with a renewed emphasis on concert performances. Granted, they're stepping gingerly. "We don't really like to do a whole lot of touring in the winter months," Barrere admits. "We've done it, but there's something about driving around in a bus in the snow that's very unsettling."

Even so, Little Feat is making an exception to play five New

Year's shows in the Baltimore-Washington area: Three at Washington's Warner Theatre (the last of which is tonight), and two here at Hammerjacks (tomorrow and Sunday).

"The D.C. shows will be the usual evening with Little Feat, which is two, two-and-a-half hours with us playing electric and about five or six acoustic tunes," explains Barrere. "Whereas in Baltimore, we're going to play our all-acoustic show, which is something we've been doing this last year."

What's the difference?

"Basically Fred [Tackett] and Craig [Fuller] and I play acoustic instruments," he answers. "Billy [Payne] has an electric keyboard with acoustic sounds on it -- it's kind of tough to drag a real piano around. And instead of his big rock and roll drum set, Richie [Hayward] has this great old '30s Slingerland jazz drum set.

"It takes the tunes into a whole different dimension," he adds. "It really puts a spotlight on the songs. You can't be jiving with feedback -- you actually have to play your instrument."

Nor are the differences with the acoustic show simply a matter of instrumentation. "We also bring out some of the songs that we haven't played in years," says Barrere. "We're doing 'Truck Stop Girl,' we're doing 'Trouble.' 'Walking All Night.' We've been doing 'Sailing Shoes,' but it sounds different, kind of a whole new feel, with two acoustic guitars and a mandolin.

"It's a real kick."

That's only part of the plan for '93, though, because once the weather warms up a bit, the band plans to do a little more touring. Only this time, the Feat will have a multitrack digital recording rig in tow, in order to make its first in-concert album since the 1979 release, "Waiting for Columbus."

"There's been so much clamor for us to do another live record that we've decided to go ahead and do it," Barrere says. "We're booking, I think, four nights in Atlanta, four nights in Washington and a couple nights in either Philly, New York or Boston, to record about 12 different shows.

"We're contacting some friends of ours -- like Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt and so forth -- to see if they'll come in and do some cameos. We want to get a horn section, like we did with 'Waiting for Columbus,' and do some more elaborate

arrangements of songs. We're going to try and start in May, and probably record through the middle of June. Then we'll go into the mixing process."

Why this year? "It's just that we have, gosh, 18 or 20 new songs that we can choose from, plus some old ones that were not on 'Waiting for Columbus,' " he says. "Also we want to incorporate some of this acoustic stuff that we're doing. It seems to be going over in a big way."

But then, so has the band itself, and Barrere couldn't be happier. "It just seems that the band keeps progressing," he says. "For me, when we finally decided to put the band back together -- and we've been back together almost five years -- it was a dream come true. And it just seems to be getting better and better."

Little Feat

When: Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m.

Where: Hammerjacks, 1101 S. Howard St.

Tickets: $13.

Call: (410) 659-7625 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets.

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