By Tom Dellinger //
There are places in this world that hold a universal appeal. One such place is the beach community of Santa Barbara which hosted one of the Bay Area’s top independent artists, Danny Click & the Hell Yeahs at the beautiful Lobero Theatre this past Saturday. A resident of San Rafael, Danny has been steadily developing his art and craft as well as cultivating an ever increasing and loyal fan base, particularly in the hamlets of Marin County and the north bay in general. Along with a stellar band, he’s quickly gained recognition and popularity as they began playing regularly at The Sleeping Lady in Fairfax, which he considers the place where things began to take off for him and the band.
Today, all of his shows sell out there. The past couple of years have seen him appear regularly at the intimate 142 Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley (where he recorded his most recent live recording), the iconic Rancho Nicasio, as well as many other venues throughout the north bay. Last year saw them play to much larger audiences as they made an appearance at The Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland Oregon and as the opener at Mount Tam Jam at the Mt Tam amphitheater where they were the first to play that stage in over 40 years. Recently, he’s been making appearances at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael where he can often be seen sitting in, including an invitation to join Phil Lesh for a show in the Grate Room. We can expect to see more of this in the future.
Often, Danny divides his show into two parts: acoustic and electric, which he did at The Lobero. It’s in the acoustic portion where you’ll hear that deep personal reach he often lays claim to in his writing, and at The Lobero they served up each song like a fine jewel to be held, gazed into, and deeply enjoyed. With Danny at vocals and acoustic guitar, Adrienne Biggs Tennant on violin, Don Bassey on vocals and bass and Mike Emerson on keyboards, they rolled through the Click catalog plus a cover or two in a beautifully nuanced set with exceptionally fine harmonies provided by Don Bassey.
There’s a common dynamic when Danny and the band play for new audiences. There is almost an instant connection between listener and player. Whether he’s playing electric or acoustic, newbies quickly recognize his talents both as a singer and communicator and once he rips on guitar, it’s all over. And on Saturday night, they played a brilliant first set and followed with one of their all too common knock out punches in the electric portion of the show. With the aforementioned lineup, along with the addition of Ernest “Boom” Carter on drums, they shared with that audience what we’ve been enjoying here in the North Bay for some time.
Everyone in the band contributes mightily to the performance and enjoy stand out moments. Mike Emerson on keyboards, who is a highly sought after musician and plays with many other artists, always has solos that propel a song in a big way. Highly expressive and classic, big soulful tone are the standard for him. Ernest (who was the drummer on Springsteen’s Born to Run) also adds mightily to this band as he propels the band through the evening. Jaw dropping timing, phrasing and tone…a master at the peak of his game. Adrienne’s violin also has big moments as she propels and takes songs to new heights. Appearing as guests for the evening were songwriter and singer Jude Johnstone (whose songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Emmy Lou Harris, Trisha Yearwood, Stevie Nicks and many more) and singer/songwriter Timothy Paruszkiewicz, who wrote the song “Baptize Me Over Elvis Presley’s Grave”, which Danny recorded last year and subsequently enjoyed an impressive run on CMT.
Danny Click and the Hell Yeahs were invited to perform at The Lobero as part of a series, called “Sings Like Hell – The Greatest Music You’ve Never Heard“. This is an excellent program, filling a much needed niche. In addition to being a gorgeous venue, The Lobero also had flawless sound for both sets. Credit must be given to the sound crew as it was obvious they knew that house and their rig. Shows that sound that good can be few and far between.