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Funky. Fresh. Romantic? G. Love at Harlow’s

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Who ordered the Fixin’ to Die sandwich with the side of public romance and a Greene salad?

Order up!

Wednesday night’s G. Love & Special Sauce show at Harlow’s was filled with several intrigues and surprise moments, not the least of which was to watch how traveled front man Garrett “G. Love” Dutton attacked his new country-blues repertoire in concert for the first time on tour.

But first, what could be considered the sweetest and possibly the slickest marriage proposal of all time has to be addressed. It was just that cool of a moment, even though it’s contrary to this reporter’s standard policy of addressing the music first and leaving the human circus for later.

Dammit, I’ve been spending too much time with Lindol French!

During G’s customary “ladies’ time” at the end of his set, with the crooning “Holla” giving way to the always syrupy, gal favorite jam “Baby’s Got Sauce,” G. slowed his band down and announced to the crowd that he had a “friend” back stage. Usually, this means a guest emcee, harmonica player, guitarist or other sit in musician that will soon have an amp put on stage to join the party.

Nope, this friend was a fairly non-descript fan in a black t-shirt in and baseball cap named Shannon, who had apparently gotten cozy with G’s manager outside the tour bus, which was parked in front of Harlow’s before the sold-out show got going. Shannon was holding a bouquet of roses as G. escorted him onto the stage – at which point everyone started to figure out what was going to happen.

Shannon brought his obviously bewildered girlfriend Nicole up on stage with him, and after announcing that she “has more sauce than any girl in the room,” got down on one knee and popped the question in front of a packed room of cheering fans.

Who is going to say no to that, as G. and the Sauce finished out the song with the newly engaged couple on stage with them. Congrats, Shannon and Nicole – and now, back to the music.

Openers The Belle Brigade are highly worth mentioning, as their delightfully nerdy Americana indie rock even lured fans away from the Kings’ home finale (?) and Giants-Dodgers games on the TV’s above the bar.

Seriously, this is a conglomerate of band geeks from high school who found their inner-cool by starting up a rock band, and their bouncy rock and roll, radiating personalities and “too lame even for the hipsters at the thrift store” threads were so impossibly endearing, there wasn’t much not to fall for.

We’re starting a rock band – this means we’re finally gonna get laid, fanny pack be damned!

Would we see a whole new G. Love tonight, as he is touring for the first time with a stock of fresh material off his Avett Brothers-produced gem of a record, “Fixin’ to Die?” It certainly appeared so as he perched on stage around 10:15, strumming into album opener “Milk & Sugar,” followed closely by the most Sauce-like tune on the record in the bouncy “Get Goin’,” and the juke-joint piano ditty “You Got to Die.”

These three straight “Fixin’” tunes would be the last we’d hear of the new stuff for awhile, as G. shifted back to his classic persona with a drop-tempo “Hustle” and, naturally, a Sacramento Kings reference during his classic “Shooting Hoops.”

Where was the rest of the new stuff? Usually when unleashing a “new territory” album, as his new record absolutely is, artists are chomping at the bit to sprinkle in the new songs next to old and get them in the new fans’ ears.

Such is indicative of the kind of performer G. Love is. Not only is he the kind of guy who will let some dude he’d never met swipe some face time from him during the show and propose to his girl, he’s the kind of guy who’s not worried about pressing an agenda of new material on his fans, who came out to hear some slimy bass solos on “Hot Cookin’,” the always filth-nasty jam of “Cold Beverage” and the hip-snapping “This Ain’t Livin.’”

This was a Wednesday night, and it was well past 11 p.m. before we’d hear more of the new stuff. He had to know that several fans would bounce out to get home to their warm blankies and not get to hear this new side of him.

They did – and G didn’t care. All he cared about was showing off the new chops for those that love him enough to stick around.

It was all old school G. Love, in as fine a form as it’s ever been, right up to the encore break, where a solo-acoustic version of “Booty Call” notwithstanding,” the encore (which was almost a second set unto itself) was all “Fixin’ to Die.”

After belting out the title track solo, keyboard whiz Mark Boyce and bassist Timo Shanko (very much coming into his own after replacing Jimi “Jazz” Prescott in 2009) joined him for a sweet take on “Katie Miss.”

Turned out, G. had another friend in the house, and his name was Jackie Greene. To an obviously adoring roar, Sacramento’s prodigal son joined the group on stage for a fatted calf jam on G.’s “The Road.” Jackie kept himself noticeably low-key (as in, back to the crowd) while kicking out some dirty Gregg Allman style riffs on a wonderfully gaudy gold-trimmed hollow body.

What G. has done with Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is wondrously funky, and it was a perfect cap to a G. Love concert that would stack up against any he’s done in the last five years.

Just step out the back, Jack…let’s hope Shannon doesn’t hear that after the moment dies down.


(Big ups to Lindol French for grabbing some shots for me, as I believe my digital camera was actually a stocking stuffer way back in 2001, just north of the time they were still using 3 1/2 inch floppys to store the photos)

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