Dr John, The Night Tripper – Gris-gris [ATCO 1969]  /  Dr John, The Night Tripper – Remedies [ATCO 1970]


“Right Place Wrong Time” Dr John [In the Right Place, ATCO 1973]


Mac Rebennack photographed enjoying himself at a 2014 sporting event

Mac Rebennack photographed enjoying himself at a 2014 sporting event

Dr John played in Melbourne last night as part of a double bill with Aaron Neville.

The Doctor performed first, backed by ‘The Nite Trippers’. It was not the smoothest of starts. Sound for the first couple of songs was muddy and disjointed. The band obviously thought so too as they seemed out of sorts.

Eventually the mix got fixed, the band perked up, and we ambled through a Dr John Greatest Hits package that satisfied the historical component for this venerable artist but was rather soulless and disengaged. It was hard to escape the conclusion that the seventy-three year old Mr Rebennack would have been happier at home in his slippers than hunched in front of his piano making occasional shuffling sorties over to his electric guitar. It was like the audience were working harder to get into the concert than the star, who did not (unless I missed something) say anything directly to the audience in the 90 minutes set.

It was a set that included, as most of the final third, a series of solo spots from the band. The drummer kicked things off with an energetic solo. But as the minutes passed, I was not the only one glancing at my watch and doing the sums.

“So this solo is over four minutes. Probably the bass player is next, then the guitarist, the Hammond organist and the young MD/Trombonist last. Shit. That’s almost half an hour. We could have had four or five more songs!”

That is how it unfolded and is exactly what people were saying in the foyer later.

Yet overall the feeling was very positive towards this New Orleans legend. The songs remain brilliant and the music both mysterious and uplifting. The backing musicians were exemplary and a good time was had by all. But this was a shadow of the leering, dangerous Night Tripper of former years and I think we all knew it.


[Vinyl Connection attended the concert courtesy of a good friend. Thanks mate]


  1. My, my, my. How sad. Travel all the way to Melbourne, just to get down there and hide behind a bunch of boring solos and suck mightily. Poor old fella shoulda just stayed home in his slippers. But he sho ’nuff was a stone cold bad ass in his day…


    1. Well, it was only the set-padding extended solos that stretched goodwill. Otherwise the band were terrific. But it is a difficult question: to see a genuine legend hinting at past glories or stay with the music fixed on record years – sometimes decades – earlier.


      1. I vote for going to see the old guys perform, even if it’s but a pale shadow of their former glory, because I’m a nostalgic softie. But some are still able to do their thing and do it well all the way to the end, thankfully.


  2. The only time I was due to see him was back in 1989 at a WOMAD festival – he didn’t show, which he’s pretty famous for apparently.

    Did he play anything/much from his last LP?


    1. Don’t know, Joe. I haven’t been a major follower of the good Doctor. In fact the last album of his in the Vinyl Connection Collection is “Goin’ Back to New Orleans” from 1992.

      Referring to your WOMAD experience, I guess a disengaged performance is a whole lot more satisfying than no performance at all!


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