Big Mac

The measure of a champion is how he performs under pressure and on Saturday night at HE 2006, Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), despite a nasty running head cold, gave us some vintage Mac.

At the beginning of the set, he pulled off a little pirouette in his cranberry colored suit and matching shoes. Then he sat down in the pit between a B3 organ and a slightly out of tune grand piano, and though he staggered, managed enough vocal and instrumental flourishes to show just how rare his musical gifts really are.

His band tweren't bad neither. Bassist and singer David Barard, live wire drummer Herman Ernest and guitarist John Fohl were all multi-talented pros who were enjoying the gig. Ernest's slide penny whistle solo was a highlight.

The funked-up, slowed down, loose arrangement of his hit "Right Place, Wrong Time," which he did a gorgeous job on putting a new spin on, for both himself and the crowd, was the night's Mac moment.

Backstage afterwards, Mac was all in. Wiping his nose, dabbing his eyes, he looked wan, but still managed to sign autographs and pose for an endless array of cheesy photos.

Currently spending a lot of time in New York, he seems, despite Saturday's nasty cold, to be in a particularly good space right now. The New Orleans disaster has also given him a cause. And after a couple snappy glissandos on Saturday I was also reminded again just how close a friend and fan he was of the late Professor Longhair.