These days Delbert McClinton spends a lot of professional energy endorsing "blues cruises," in which he takes fans out on the ocean aboard luxury liners. If the Birchmere were a ship, there would have been a lot of folks overboard by the end of McClinton's eventually insufferable Monday show.
The earlier portions of what turned out to be a nearly three-hour tour through McClinton's long and often luminous career went swimmingly. Fans in the packed house roared approval as the 62-year-old West Texan directed his fine eight-piece band through roadhouse favorites. including "Going Back to Louisiana" (a 1960 single by his old band, the Straitjackets), "Old Weakness" and "Leap of Faith." McClinton was at his blues-belting best during the slow burn of "I Want to Love You" and "Don't Want to Love You." On the latter cut, off his latest disc, the Grammy-nominated "Room to Breathe," McClinton seemed truly pained while growling, "It's time to face the fact that you don't love me back."
But the ship started losing its way around the time McClinton introduced another recent track, "New York City," and began complaining about running out of "Goose vodka." He got his cup refilled, then chased one of his guitarists from the stage to take over lead guitar duties on very rough versions of "Jungle Room" and "Watchin' the Rain."
And the show finally ran aground after "Read Me My Rights," a track off 2001's "Nothing Personal." McClinton struck up a conversation with a group of four sisters at a table near the stage. While the rest of the audience and his band mates looked on in amazement or boredom, McClinton began a brutally long and occasionally mean-spirited crusade to get the sisters to moan into his microphone. When he finally finished this 15-minute, entertainment-free excursion, two-thirds of the crowd had bailed.
-- Dave McKenna