Bonnie Bramlett - lead vocals; Dru Lombar - guitar, background vocals; Larry Howard - guitar, background vocals; Stephen Miller- keyboards, background vocals; Joe Dan Petty - bass, background vocals; Rick Burnett - drums
In an effort to extend the reach of Southern Rock artists, the epicenter label, Capricorn Records, launched an ambitious European Tour toward the end of 1976. The tour featured an exciting triple bill of Grinderswitch, Bonnie Bramlett, and the Marshall Tucker Band, three of the most respected Capricorn artists outside the Allman Brothers Band. Serving double duty on the tour was Grinderswitch, who not only kicked off the program each evening, but also served as the musicians for Bonnie Bramlett. Arguably the greatest white soul singer in America, Bramlett was likely the most recognized artist on the bill, having conquered Europe earlier in the decade during her years co-fronting Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. One of the most anticipated nights occurred at the tail end of the tour, when these artists took to the stage of the Birmingham Odeon. Expectations were high, the performance was sold out, and both the BBC and the King Biscuit Flower Hour recording engineers were on hand to record the night's festivities for later broadcast.
Here we feature Bonnie Bramlett's set from that memorable night. Bramlett's set segued directly out of the opening set by Grinderswitch, who served as her band on this tour. Kicking off her set with the Stax Records classic, "Hold On, I'm Coming," Bramlett immediately displays her gift for balancing passion and intensity. Possessing one of the strongest soul singer voices ever, her years of experience from being the only white Ikette to Delaney & Bonnie and beyond, rings through loud and clear. Taking things down a notch, Bramlett next leads the group into a smoldering cover of Bobby Blue Bland's "Two Steps From the Blues." As her stage banter attests, this is musical territory she obviously holds dear and her performance reflects her passion. Despite the impressive roster of musicians that graced her Lady's Choice album, which featured both of these songs, these live versions are more immediate and engaging.
The sound of classic Southern Rock kicks off the next number, "Atlanta, Georgia," a standout track from her 1974 album, It's Time. This begins with an overt nod to the Allman Brothers arrangement of "Statesboro Blues," before launching into Bramlett's joyous celebration of being a party girl among country boys. She gets to exercise her deeper gospel voice here inspiring Dru Lombar and Stephen Miller to each deliver impressive solos.
Grinderswitch show tasteful restraint on Bramlett's most famous song, "Groupie" (also known as "Superstar"), initially letting her voice convey nearly everything alone. This slowly builds, with the organ swells and Bramlett's voice carrying it along. As the band kicks in harder, Bramlett's voice becomes staggeringly powerful, building to a dramatic close. Covered by countless singers, many of them great, the voice of the woman who wrote these lyrics is a more compelling experience.
Bramlett winds the audience up one more time on the set closing "Higher And Higher," where Grinderswitch help her develop an undeniably catchy groove. One can tell the Grinderswitch boys grew up devouring this kind of Southern soul and their passion for it is obvious here. Belting out her vocals, with the band acting as her background singers, Bramlett's soulful voice is explosive. Bramlett is indeed one of the greatest soul singers ever and she concludes this impressive set by fusing Jackie Wilson's soulful pop song into bluesy southern rock, setting the stage for the headliners, the Marshall Tucker Band.