James Gang Concert, Binghamton, New York, 1974
Reviewed by Rich Martelli
Way back in the winter of early 1974 my brother Joe and I had the great fortune of seeing James Gang (with their new guitarist Tommy Bolin) and Johnny Winter at the Broome County Arena in Binghamton, New York. I no longer have my ticket stub so I’m not sure of the exact date but pretty sure it was in February. James Gang had played a show with Black Sabbath in Buffalo, N.Y. on February 20th which kind of makes sense to me that our show would have been around the same time. Anyway, my brother and I had to hitchhike the 60 mile trip in the cold and snow. We had no wheels then (we were still in high school at the time), I was 16 and Joe was 18.
Our main desire was to see Johnny Winter. Joe had his “Still Alive And Well” album which received a lot of play at our house and some of his earlier recordings too. We loved James Gang when Joe Walsh was still at the helm and we had all of their albums. But the records they released after Joe split were just un-listenable, a far cry from what they were. So we didn’t know what to expect on seeing these guys live… I imagine we thought seeing Jim Fox and Dale Peters would be cool and they would probably play some of the older stuff (we didn’t know anything about Tommy Bolin then). Anyway, tickets for the show were general admission (they all seemed to be back then) and of course it was an evening show. So when we left our house it was starting to get dark and we caught a ride right away. We were dropped off just outside the small village of Waverly, kind of in the middle of nowhere about 20 miles from our home. We were left in the dark and the snow and the bitter cold and we watched with much anticipation as cars (few and far between) rolled on by. We were stranded there for what seemed to be forever trying to stay warm by walking in circles or running in place - the things we do for music. Eventually a car stopped for us, a car that already seemed full but they made room for us anyway. They were going to the concert as well – beautiful, we thawed out, may have smoked a little and they got us to the show on time.
When we arrived a good sized crowd had already gathered in front of the stage. We grabbed a couple seats in the seating section left of the stage where we had a fairly good view. We hadn’t been there for very long when the lights went down and the sound of plucking strings from the beginning of James Gang’s “Standing In The Rain” kicked in. A strobe light appeared and in the flashing light we could see the figure of James Gang’s singer Roy Kenner wearing a small cape running back and forth across the stage. When the stage lights came on I could see Dale Peters (bass) on the left (closest to us), Jim Fox planted behind his drum kit wearing a fishing cap and, on the far right, the new guy Tommy Bolin (guitar) wearing a white suit, a cowboy hat and a green feathered boa wrapped around his neck. We didn’t know anything about Tommy then but after the first couple tunes it was apparent that this guy was quite good. The sound of Tommy’s guitar had pierced our young brains and we were compelled to try our luck on the floor to get a better view of the band. We worked our way through the crowd and were able to get about 30 or 40 feet from the stage. The band was tight and sounded great but it was Tommy that everyone seemed to be drawn to. He looked quite relaxed on stage and appeared to be having a great time. He was ripping it up and the crowd was digging him. (It was at this time I swear I saw Joe Walsh just off stage standing in the shadows with tears rolling down his cheeks. And there, standing next to him, was the devil himself Don Henley with his arm around old Joe comforting him and whispering in his ear about greater glories and 100 dollar ticket prices). Thirty eight years and some days have passed since we attended this show and I can remember only three songs that they performed for sure … “Standing In The Rain” that they opened with, “Funk 49” which gave Jim Fox a chance to stretch out on the drums a bit and “Ride The Wind” that they performed towards the end of their set. I know they played other songs from the Walsh years. I recognized them at the time but I can’t tell you what they were now. And I’m sure they must have played more tracks from off their ”Bang” album which was their most recent record and the one they were promoting at the time. You know, James Gang had gone to seed after Joe Walsh split in 1971 and I was glad to be a witness of their rebirth. Tommy Bolin, (the new kid in town) had kicked some much needed life into this band if even for only a few years. So when the band finished their set and the overhead lights came on and that illegal haze hung over the crowd, we could only stand there speechless and just smile. I bought their “Bang” album a couple of days later.
Johnny Winter did not disappoint either. He was just as great as we expected. We were happy to see him include “Highway 61” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in his set and to hear a few tracks from his new album “Saints And Sinners” that was released a few weeks later.
A lot of time has passed… I still have my vinyl copy of the James Gang - “Bang” album and now have a copy on CD as well and it still receives a fair amount of play. I still go to concerts and have been to a lot of shows over the years but that James Gang & Johnny Winter concert from 1974 still holds the place as one of my favorite shows.
This photo not from the actual gig reviewed
This photo not from the actual gig reviewed
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