The Marcia Ball Band at the Beachland Ballroom (2006)

The Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio

6 Oct. 2006

One of the things lacking in Northern Ohio music scene right now, and we do have many things to be grateful for, is an independent adult alternative radio station playing blues, folk, jazz, and other roots music genres. Because if we had one, more people in Northern Ohio would know about artists like Marcia Ball. Those who do know about her came out in full force last Friday for a great night of blues and barrelhouse New Orleans piano boogie music at the Beachland Ballroom.
Marcia Ball and her band have been a part of the blues scene since the late 70’s, having been nominated for Grammys and winning several W.C. Handy Awards. She has evolved into one of our true blues divas, a piano playing Bonnie Raitt minus the rock and roll hits. Her almost yearly sojourn to Northern Ohio brought out her loyal local legion of fans, slowly becoming bigger and more diverse with each show.

The tall, attractive Texan via Louisiana native played close to twenty songs, most of them time tested originals, to an enthusiastic crowd. The highlights were many, including several songs from the album Sing It she did with Irma Thomas and Tracy Nelson in 1998 (“Sing It” and “I Want To Do Everything For You”); some traditional New Orleans boogie (“Mama’s Cooking,” “Dance with Me Darling,” “Mobile”); and several Marcia Ball originals on both the serious and funny sides of relationships (“Foreclosing on the House of Love” and her beautiful ballad “The Power of Love”).

She has been performing the Randy Newman ballad “Louisiana 1927” for years, before the hurricanes wiped out the Gulf Coast last year, including the small Louisiana town she grew up in. She sang it emotionally and soulfully, and then a performed for the first time anywhere another ballad “Ride it Out” about the house she grew up that was destroyed by Hurricane Rita.

Ball’s sly and ironic sense of humor comes through in her music and her banter with the audience, whether she is commenting about politicians in Washington or the battle of the sexes. Both with her music and story telling between sets, she had the audience completely with her and loving every minute of it.

Besides a great show, another positive of the night is that it brought some people to the Beachland who probably have never been there. The crowd was older than the usual Friday night Beachland crowd, similar to the crowd you would find at Night Town for a jazz show. And it was more of a concert like feel, with rows of chairs covering most of the floor to accommodate the baby boomers in the crowd, most of whom just wanted to sit and enjoy the music. Along the back and the sides there was still enough room for dancing, which is always a part of a Marcia Ball show.

Also a highlight of the evening was the presence of Austin blues singer/songwriter Seth Walker, who opened the show with a solo set mixed with originals and well-done covers, and brought a guitar presence to Ball’s band that it had never had before. Luckily for those in attendance, the Beachland show was one of only a handful Walker is doing with the Marcia Ball Band before he goes back to his own musical outfits.

Backing Marcia Ball along with Walker was her long time bass player Don Bennett, drummer Corey Ketler, and saxophonist Thad Scott.

It was a great night of music at the Beachland Ballroom as Marcia Ball and her band performed another solid show for her fans here in Northern Ohio. Now if we could only get someone to play her on the radio…