Brian Auger and the Oblivion Express at NightTown (2006)

Night Town in Cleveland Hts., Ohio

25 July 2006

I attended the late show of the second night of the two night, four show stand Brian Auger did last week at Night Town. As I walked in, fans from the early show were walking out raving about the concert, and Auger could be seen in the back bar area drenched in sweat signing CD’s and talking to fans. I said to myself maybe I should have came to the early show, or maybe the night before. How much was he going to have left after already doing three shows in the last thirty hours?

Well, I don’t really know how good those other three shows were, but the one I saw was outstanding. For eighty-five minutes the standing room only crowd was in the company of greatness. One of the true heroes of that special time when commercial rock radio in Cleveland played album cuts instead of singles, and played anything that was good along the rock and roll continuum, whether it was punk or folk or blues or country or jazz. If you were a music fan in Cleveland during that time, you knew Brian Auger. And during that fourth and final show over two nights, he lived up to his legend and more.

Auger took the stage with his four-piece band; beside himself on keyboards it included his son Karma on drums, daughter Savannah on vocals, and a talented young bassist Mark Meadows. They put on a show that was as much rock as jazz, and I don’t think those old pictures on the walls at Night Town have ever shook as much.

They opened with “Truth,” which goes all the way back to Auger’s 1972 album Second Wind, but sounded very contemporary. I was immediately impressed with the talent of the band. Auger’s son could really play the drums, and his daughter could really sing. In fact on the Oblivion Express standards they played her singing gave the songs a new freshness, and to be honest with you, each one sounded better than in their original recorded versions. Highlights of the show included a great cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Butterflies” (complete with new lyrics Auger wrote so his daughter could sing them); and “Whenever You’re Ready” and the closer “Compared to What,” two gems from the classic Closer to It album from 1973. Almost every song featured Auger on some sort of organ solo, and believe me when I tell you, the man can still play. The enthusiastic crowd loved it.

In the bar before the show I crossed paths with several groups of Auger fans who had not seen him in years, and who have never had been to Night Town. After the show they praised both the performance as well as the venue. If you have never been to a show at Night Town, or haven’t been there in years, you should really check it out. They have been bringing in all sorts of quality jazz artists, and they redid the sound system in their room and it is one of the premier places to hear live music in Northern Ohio. Visit their website at for more information about upcoming shows.

The night closed with a surprise cake to celebrate the elder Auger’s sixty-seventh birthday. He looked touched and surprised, and stayed around afterwards sharing the cake with his fans and family. He told the crowd you are never too old to rock, and he expected one day “to go down with all flags flying.” Let’s hope it is not for a very long time, and he returns to give many more shows like he did last week at Night Town.