The Doobie Brothers have had many eras in their 41 years of rockin’ down the highway. Initially, a gritty, groove-conscious mix of blues, folk and soul, the band grew smoother and more pop & fusion oriented as the 70s progressed, particularly after Michael McDonald joined as vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter in the mid-70s. Live At The Greek Theatre 1982 (released June 28 on Eagle Records) presents a night many Doobies fans wish they’d been in attendance at (and for the record, this writer in all his pre-pubescent glory was there in Berkeley for his first evening at the legendary Greek Theatre) for all their slick, jazzy, mega-hit era glory.
At the time, it seemed we were witnessing the last crackling embers of one of the giants of the past decade, bowing out at their commercial height just as the industry was shifting to video, a realm the real man musicians in this band weren’t exactly suited to. History, of course, shows that The Doobie Brothers didn’t take their final bow that night, and in recent years have seen a real return to form with last year’s World Gone Crazy and a still tight, entertaining live show.
However, the band and fans gathered inside the Greek’s stone shell didn’t know that, and this set is infused with an exuberant party atmosphere. While every version isn’t definitive, all the major milestones are hit, and the crowd energy is enormous. So is the electric charge coming off co-founder Patrick Simmons, who plays and sings his ass off throughout, balanced and sparked by John McFee, the string champ who continues to enliven the band’s music to this day. A brief late in the show guest appearance from co-founder Tom Johnston, who had left the band several years earlier, is a reminder of what the group had once been – and thankfully the first step towards Johnston’s eventual full return to the fold, where he co-leads the Doobie Brothers today with Simmons.
Like the concert itself, Live At The Greek Theatre 1982 is a right good time, powered by a rhythm section that gives old Santana a run for their money and a band obviously enjoying one last crack at their catalog before things changed for all of them. Four bonus cuts are nice perk for fans, including fine takes on late McDonald period gems “Little Darling (I Need You),” “One Step Closer” and “Dependin’ On You.” (Dennis Cook)