Concert Recap: Dan Zanes (Scottsdale, AZ, May 2011)

DZ_Colin.jpgIt's been a couple weeks now, but I didn't want to forget to mention the show Dan Zanes put on here in the Valley of the Sun. He and the Friends played at the lovely Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on a Saturday afternoon.

Having now seen Zanes in concert three times, there's not much he and the band can do to surprise me at this point. He's got ten albums, and since a concert of 75 minutes or so only has time for maybe 15 songs (I think they played 16, including the encore), there must always be a handful of songs that are favorites of one fan or another that they don't get around to.

Doesn't matter much, anyway, because Zanes always seems to be on a single-minded mission to lead a party, not a concert, and as soon as the first song ended and he invited folks into the mosh pit up front, and a bunch of families were happy to oblige. "Fine Friends Are Here," "Malti," and many more -- there were always people dancing up front and up and down the aisle steps. I was there with Little Boy Blue, and while it took him nearly an hour as he sat shyly in his seat, eventually he dragged me down front (it was for the gigantic train of "Catch That Train!").

DZ_Elena_Bebe_concert.jpgWhile I say there isn't much that Zanes can do to surprise me in concert, his long-standing tradition of bringing in local talent to perform with him at his shows, is still one of them. As it turns out, I saw a neighbor there who mentioned that the daughter of one her friends would be performing with Zanes. Sure enough, six songs in, a young girl strode out onstage and played "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" with the band.

The girl's name is Bebe, and she's the daughter of Eileen Spitalny, one of the folks behind the well-known Fairytale Brownies. The Spitalny family is also an even bigger Dan Zanes fan than I am, having seem him and the band even more often than I am. Maybe that's why she was totally unfazed by going out on stage and playing a song with a band in front of hundreds of audience members. (More poised than I'd be, probably.) Beyond Bebe, the "formal" musical guest were the Valley View Latin Jazz, a group of middle school students. They played a couple songs, plus an encore, with the band. Nothing like adding fifteen or so musicians to the stage...

So, yeah, another fine DZ show. I realize that suggesting that folks see Zanes in concert is not swimming against the critical current, and in fact a lot of you probably have already done so. But if you haven't, you owe it to yourself to see how he works to bring everyone together at a show. And if you have, it's still possible to be pleasantly surprised.

Disclosure: I received a pair of tickets for the show from the SCPA.

Photo credits: Spitalny photo