Little Feat Live

Before there were jam bands, before the term even existed in fact, there was a fabulous, funky assemblage called Little Feat. Led by keyboardist Bill Payne, drummer Richie Hayward and the band’s resident genius guitarist/singer/songwriter, the late Lowell George, the band was completed by guitarist Paul Barrere, percussionist Sam Clayton, and bassist Kenny Gradney, all of whom joined after the Dixie Chicken record. Their live shows and studio records are, along with The Allman’s and The Dead, the rock upon which today’s overripe jam movement was built. One look at the video or a listen to the audio of Little Feat, Live in Holland 1976 and Feat fanatics will instantly remember what made this band so special. They had chemistry. They had material. Sure, it was funk ‘n’ roll, boogie ‘n’ blues, none of it terribly difficult to figure out, but they had a spirit that made them special. All this is apparent in this `til now unreleased set from the PinkPop Festival in Holland, which is a more than worthy addition to the slim catalog of filmed Feat live performances.

As with all video/audio projects from this era, there are some slight issues. Bill Payne, who stands when he plays the keyboards, has dirt on the seat of his pants—let’s hope it’s dirt— and unfortunately he is shot from behind too much of the time. The camera operators not to mention the film editor were far too fond of shots from below, so the band is most often seen from right against the stage, in “The Pit” as it were. The close ups of George, in his purple shirt and too small cowboy hat, and the rest of the band, shot from the side of the stage, are terrific though. Several tunes, unfortunately including “Oh, Atlanta,” appear only on the CD part of this CD/DVD package, which I assume means there are technical problems with those portions of the film. Sonics, especially when you are talking about a live show and mid–Seventies portable recording gear, are usually an adventure. Like many older live recordings, this one lives in a sort of flat mid–range with very little low frequency response. There are drop outs and burps in some spots. Though I did not experience it for myself, I hear from those who have that the 5.1 surround sound mode is about as well done as can be expected considering the age of the source material.

None of these issues however, detracts from the band’s performance or the joy of seeing the penultimate version of Little Feat back on stage groovin’ again as only they could. The monster energy present in the closing triplet of “Tripe Face Boogie,” “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,” and “Teenage Nervous Breakdown,” makes this among the best live Feat, from the band’s classic era, that’s yet come to light. And be sure to read those liner notes by Stereophile contributing editor John Swenson!

For those unfamiliar with the band’s legacy, Rhino Records has again released a huge bargain (as low as $53 online) for those who still play CDs, in Little Feat, Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years, 1971-1990 which gathers the band’s 11 studio and live albums up to Representing the Mambo which is the second record after the death of Lowell George in 1979. It also comes with an extra disc Outtakes from Hotcakes that collects demos and outtakes from the band’s entire career.

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COMMENTS
remlab's picture

First music I ever purchased. The amazing sound on that album is what brought me into this hobby.

John Atkinson's picture
I saw Little Feat just the once, also in 1976, in London, presumably on the same tour featured in this Dutch video, but they were perhaps the best live rock band ever. The late Richie Hayward was a supreme rock drummer, capable of playing two time signatures simultaneously, as in "Apolitical Blues." I wrote my own appreciation of the band for Stereophile in 2000: www.stereophile.com/recordingofthemonth/402/index.html.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Wolverine84's picture

Article starts out with "Before there were jam bands, before the term even existed in fact..." Well, there was this band out of San Francisco that had been around for awhile. Some may have heard of them, they were called the Grateful Dead.

John Atkinson's picture
Wolverine84 wrote:
there was this band out of San Francisco that had been around for awhile. Some may have heard of them, they were called the Grateful Dead.

Yes indeed. I have been a fan of the Dead since "Live/Dead" - possibly the finest-sequenced album ever! - have been a taper, and have a large collection of recordings. But, whereas Little Feat were, to judge from concert recordings, never less than excellent live, the Dead in concert varied from superb to dreck.

Thanks to PBS, I recently rewatched the 1980 New York video and think I have an inkling why they were so inconsistent live. Bob Weir is perhaps the best rhythm guitarist of all time, Phil Lesh is a superbly creative bassist, Brent Mydland was a much better keyboard player than PigPen, though without the charismatic stage personality, and Jerry was Jerry! But Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann were never better than second-rate, capable of keeping time but not driving the other players to greater heights in the way Richie Hayward did in the Feat.

So when Jerry caught fire, the Dead were transcendent. But when he was not feeling it, Hart and Kreutzmann failed to support and inspire him.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Osgood Crinkly III's picture

Bought this because of this review. Audio quality is terrible, something one wouldn't expect in an item reviewed in an an established audiophile mag such as Stereophile. Audio is dry, congested, with out bass, air or highs ... sounds like a mediocre bootleg.

As there is much overlap in content with the vastly superior live recording, Waiting for Columbus, there's no reason to buy this for the audio CD. Waiting for Columbus is a must for any Feat fan. This isn't.

As a Feat fan, one grabs whatever video one can get, there being almost nothing. Up till now, I've been putting up with terrible YouTube videos, so this is a welcome, if flawed, find. If only there were a video companion to Waiting For Columbus ...

Didn't appreciate the puerile attention paid to the seat of Bill Payne's pants. Truly beneath (pun) a serious review.

Osgood Crinkly III's picture

Bought this because of this review. Audio quality is terrible, something one wouldn't expect in an item reviewed in an an established audiophile mag such as Stereophile. Audio is dry, congested, with out bass, air or highs ... sounds like a mediocre bootleg.

As there is much overlap in content with the vastly superior live recording, Waiting for Columbus, there's no reason to buy this for the audio CD. Waiting for Columbus is a must for any Feat fan. This isn't.

As a Feat fan, one grabs whatever video one can get, there being almost nothing. Up till now, I've been putting up with terrible YouTube videos, so this is a welcome, if flawed, find. If only there were a video companion to Waiting For Columbus ...

Didn't appreciate the puerile attention paid to the seat of Bill Payne's pants. Truly beneath (pun) a serious review.

Ketil's picture

Great album. I have been playing it on and off since the release in the 70s . The sound is good and the band is great. Love the horn section...

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