It may have been April Fool’s Day but the real fools were the ones wandering around on the outskirts of Marcia Ball’s open air concert at Austin's Art After Dark (Austin Fine Arts Festival). Ball who was just nominated for Entertainer of the Year by the Blues Music Awards makes the energizer bunny look lazy. She never stopped bobbing her head and swinging her legs to the music as she electrified the audience with a twenty-two song set. Springsteen may have sung "Dancing In The Dark" but Marcia Ball sang to dancers in the dark as her fans grabbed a partner and enjoyed the moonlit night in the park.
"Come On Everybody Let’s Rock" and "Red Beans" demonstrated immediately why Ball is considered a superb keyboardist and is also nominated for Piano Player of the Year. Her lightening fast fingers stroking the keys were a blur. "Big Shot" from the Live! Down The Road CD highlighted the unbelievable sweet notes that sax man Thad Scott coaxed from his horn. Throughout the concert several songs gave the tenorist an opportunity to blow solo performances. Live! Down The Road was named Blues CD of 2005 by Living Blues Magazine.
As she performed the long lazy ballad "Louisiana 1927" you would have been hard pressed to find a dry eye in the audience. Although the cover of Randy Newman's tune is about a flood decades ago your heart broke once again for the victims of the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster. Ball's passionate vocals lamented;
"Some people got lost in the flood, some people got away alright
The river had busted clear through down to Plackermine
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline
They're trying to wash us away, they're trying to wash us away"
A good accompaniment to this tune came earlier in the set when Ball and her band performed Chip Dolan’s "Bucktown". Silhouetted in pale blue light the words chronicled the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. As Scotts’ saxophone mourned Ball crooned, "In Bucktown saints will march again will rise again..." The song pays tribute to some of Jazz music’s best including Jelly Roll Morton.
Ball made this an eclectic evening with songs of lost love, "Scene Of The Crime" and the 2003 tune "Foreclose On The House of Love". There were also love songs such as fan favorite "Honeypie" from her So Many Rivers album. Other popular tunes included "Let Me Play With Your Poodle" (from the 1997 album of the same name) and "La Ti Da" (2005).
Austin's own Pat Boyack got down and funky as the lead guitarist playing some of the best blues riffs heard west of the Mississippi River. He demonstrated the same creativity that led to the high marks he received from reviewers for his 2004 solo effort Voices From The Street. He was complimented well by bassist Don Bennett. Corey Keller laid down the beats.