Thursday evening At Evanston's SPACE nightclub, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter could have filled his set with Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers songs and the audience would have been happy. Baxter was a founding member of Steely Dan and a member of the Doobies during their most successful years. When the promoters of Baxter's current tour asked him to play only songs from his former bands, he told them they should hire a cover band if that's what they want.
He chose instead to focus on his solo music from his recent album "Speed of Heat". This album features a wide range of genres, including Scottish battle music ("Ladies from Hell"), funk ("I Can Do Without"), surf guitar ("Apache"), and smooth jazz ("My Place in the Sun"). He played most of the album tonight, taking his time between songs to tell stories of his decades in the music business and his collaboration with others.
For the "Speed of Heat" album, Baxter worked with Clint Black, Michael McDonald, and Johnny Lang. None of them were in his touring company, but C.J. Vanston, who produced the album, accompanied Baxter on keyboards. They were joined on stage by bassist Hank Horton and drummer Mark Damian, each of which sang lead on some songs.
Together, the quartet brought a high dose of energy that excited a packed house in my favourite Evanston venue.
And the audience was happy.