"Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed"
It starts with the band chanting along with each other instead of the usual crowd noise, which eventually gives way to the sound of an MC introducing the band and then the glorious sound of Little Feat ripping into one of their signature tunes.
By 1977 Little Feat had long established themselves as one of the connoisseur’s choices of American rock band. Not for Little Feat the glossy radio-friendly sound of The Eagles or Fleetwood Mac, instead their heart-warming stew of rock and roll, slide guitar, soulful funk and rootsy jamming had seen them become one of the biggest little bands in the world, never really cracking the charts, but instead becoming stalwarts of the live circuit and establishing a sizeable fanbase without ever really enjoying the breakthrough hit they truly deserved.
Having been started by former Mother of Invention Lowell George, Little Feat had evolved over time to the point where George was no longer the chief creative director of the band, as co-founder Bill Payne and Paul Barrere stepped forward while George dealt with some personal issues. This evolution had resulted in Little Feat’s studio albums becoming a little more variable, but their reputation as a live act had never dimmed, hence Waiting for Columbus being one of the band’s best selling albums. Backed by legendary horn section Tower of Power and hurtling through a set of material which stretched back to George’s pre-Little Feat days, Waiting for Columbus was the only official live album recorded during George’s life time, though in recent years a number of ‘authorised bootlegs’ have become available. There’s an argument that, given their live reputation, Waiting for Columbus is in many ways the definitive document of Little Feat.
Be it the rendition of “Dixie Chicken” expanded with lengthy instrumentals, or the heart-popping “Time Loves a Hero”, or the sheer brilliance of Little Feat’s seamless instrumental interplay, Waiting for Columbus is an album that stays with you. Maybe it’s the clever-clever eye-catching artwork by Neon Park (which the eight year old me would have surely had nightmares about for weeks), perhaps it’s George’s stinging slide guitar work throughout, maybe it’s the fact that it ticks all the obvious boxes to be a 70s live double album cliché, yet somehow transcends them at the same time, but even if you have no previous experience of Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus is an album that makes an impression.
As groovy, bluesy, funky, rock and roll gumbos go, Waiting for Columbus is a live document which is the ideal introduction to Little Feat for newcomers.