On Sunday (June 1) I went to The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano with friends to see Rikki Lee Jones and Alfred Johnson perform. It was a true gift in more ways than one. My neighbor and friend, Marla, treated two other great friends and me to this special evening and a girls night out. Marla gave us matching bracelets as a party gift memento for the night.
The live music was the best gift of the night as we were thrilled by Alfred Johnson’s opening set, Alfred was more than Rikki Lee Jones’ opener. Alfred Johnson has co-written hit songs with Rikki since they met in Los Angeles over 30 years ago. “Company” and “Weasel and the White Boys Cool,” which Rikki performed during her phenomenal set, are among the songs Alfred Johnson and Rikki Lee Jones co-wrote. Alfred accompanied himself on keyboard, no other musicians played and it was fine because what we were given was his full, joyful energy and talent. Alfred’s smile is as big as his personality and his songs are more than tunes, they are stories.
Rikki Lee Jones was a jewel. She’s a star. Rikki impressed me so much with her emotional, soulful delivery of vocals that moved the entire auditorium. Just like Alfred, she accompanied herself, no band, and again it was perfect as she played either acoustic guitar or grand piano. I have been a fan of hers since I heard “Chuck E’s in Love” on the radio, but really had no idea of the level of talent she has as a vocalist until I heard her live. Every song she sang was excellent and moving, but her cover of “Sympathy for The Devil” was awesome, really awesome!
The biggest gift of the night was personal. Rikki Lee Jones spoke between songs and was quite candid. She now lives in New Orleans and describes her present situation there as economically poor, but rich in culture and music. Rikki drew a visual with her words of the neighborhood she lives in that includes the woman, a neighbor, who sits on her porch all day and watches everything that comes and goes on the street and greets her when she goes out. The delightful parades that pop up like magic, playing jazzy music. She went on for just a few minutes and when she spoke whimsically about not having a dryer and making a clothes line out of twine strung between trees in her backyard to hang laundry, I connected with my childhood. My parents didn’t have a dryer and we hung our laundry to dry. It was a childhood memory and an old story that Rikki Lee Jones brought back to present. It surprised me how much that visual from my past felt so comfortable and emotional. Like a poem or a dream I wrote down in a notebook and found it again after being lost for decades. Thank you, Rikki Lee Jones.
This article isn’t necessarily a review of the concert at The Coach House, but I have to mention how terrible the production was by the club. Rikki mentioned several times to the engineer to fix the buzzing sound that we could all hear. Fortunately, it was not too loud, but still annoying to Rikki that she asked about it four times. There were also problem with the stage lighting. Whoever was operating the lights was creating a very distracting atmosphere on stage and Rikki commented on that as well. At one point during the performance Rikki jokingly said, “If you’re going to book acts at this club you might want to consider fixing the sound problems.” Though this wasn’t really a joke, especially when the song that I looked forward to hearing, “Chuck E’s In Love,” was almost ruined by the fact that the sound system stopped working all together and Rikki had to perform her last song acapela. Despite all those challenges, Rikki’s and Alfred’s talent shone over The Coach House’s fumbling’s.