Giving up the blues for boogie is like giving up the monastery for the honky-tonk; what you gain in experience you lose in philosophy.
Thus Elvin Bishop, who first came to light as lead guitarist (and ultimately, second guitarist behind Mike Bloomfield) for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, is now ensconced amid the Capricorn Records stable of southern beer-boogie rockers -- and more's the pity. In his one-night appearance at the Bayou last night Bishop was so laid back he was practically asleep at the axe.
There are two major schools of guitar licks in the southern rock lexicon: the innovative liquid emotion of the early Allman Brothers or Marshall Tucker's Toy Caldwell; and the close-your-eyes and kick-ass beat which characterizes Wet Willie and, these days, Bishop. It can be a lot of fun to drink to, but ultimately boring -- the disco of southern rock.
There were a few surprises, the greatest being the presence of second guitarist Amos Garrett, whose work with Butterfield, Ian and Sylvia, Geoff Muldaur and (separately) Maria Muldaur has made him a Washington cult figure. Bishop's ensemble also included two saxophonists, thereby going Springsteen-and-Joel-and-Dylan one better.
Now that Marshall Tucker have fled the Capricorn label, and the Allman Brothers reunion seems tenuous, Capricorn may be looking for an imaginative artist to captain the team. Bishop doesn't look like the one.
Opening last night for the Elvin Bishop Band were local stalwarts Bill Holland and Rent's Due, who performed in their usual professional manner.