Beausoleil Avec Michael Doucet April 2, 2010
By Glen Creason
Normally I wouldn’t criticize great artists like Michael Doucet but I have to say that he is far too humble. Monsieur Doucet of the great Cajun group Beausoleil opened a really fine show at the Performing Arts Center on Friday and really had no business taking that position at said concert. No one should ever follow Doucet since he is impossible to top and although the show closing “Hot 8 Brass Band” pumped up the volume and the energy as high as their brass could take it, they were trying to fill shoes as big as the bayous of Louisiana. The show ended with the “Hot 8” doing what they do best which is sort of high stepping at the front of a parade or funeral in New Orleans. On this less baleful occasion they snaked through the Cerritos audience and into the lobby of the Center while blasting “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.” However, I must sadly report that it was a letdown. It’s not that the “Hot 8 Brass Band” went quietly or failed to please many in the hard-core crowd with colorful readings of favorites such as “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Bon Marie,” “Going to Mardi Gras,” “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” and a doleful “St. James Infirmary.” They did all of that with plenty of gumption. It’s just that they should have opened the show and allowed the living legend to finish it. In this world turned upside down, Beausoleil Avec Michael Doucet opened the show with some delicious old-time Cajun twin fiddle roots with the man and Mitch Reed making you feel like you were down in southern Louisiana near Lafayette, where it all started. There are few sights in all of popular American music as intrinsically joyful to witness as Doucet’s dreamy face and swaying baldhead as he coaxes honey out of his fiddle creating the irresistible rhythms of down-home Cajun music. Just watching him play and tell stories in his salt-of-the-earth way is worth the price of admission. Then there is the superb band standing with him including brother David on guitar, the aforementioned Mitch Reed on bass, little keg of accordion dynamite Jimmy Breaux and the twin percussion delights of Billy Ware and Tommy Alesi. Everything they touched turned to gold especially “Marie,” “Little Darling,” and the Cajun National Anthem that goes by the common name of “Jolie Blonde.” The show highlight was most certainly “Alligator Purse” from the current CD but there were many other delicacies that don’t translate too well into English but went by titles like “the woman who liked to play cards…” “Those that are jealous,” “Oh What a Life with Money and No Wife,” “the Onions Are For Sale,” and in the original “Le Chanson de Theogenes Dubois.” It is not often locals can hear this genuine article and when the band finished their dozen tunes the audience stood and begged for more but the split concert constraints forced the band to hold to the dozen and leave the crowd wanting much more. Maybe next time Beausoleil will just take both ends of the show and give the rest of the show to the faithful, hungry for these rare and succulent Louisiana treats.