Celebrating A Decade of Dazzle:

The Metropolitan Blues All-Stars 10th Anniversary Concert

By Diana Black

"Stump! Stump! Stump!" The audience chanted above thunderous applause, as it welcomed the Metropolitan Blues All-Stars to a Lonesome Pine Special celebrating the band's ten years of red-hot blues.

The sold-out performance in honor of the Lexington-based group was held in the Bomhard Theatre of the Kentucky Center for the Arts on Friday, February 1. New and old MBA fans got to see and hear first hand why the band's nationally televised Lonesome Pine Special performance of 1988 received as much national response as any show in the highly acclaimed series.

Within seconds of taking the stage, the MBA cut loose with the rousing, foot-stomping "Crosscut Saw." Immediately apparent was the energy, talent and incredible crowd-pleasing appeal of the original members: lead guitarist Nick Stump (hence the chant), rhythm guitarist Frank Schaap, blues harpist Rodney Hatfield, and the more recent additions, drummer David White and bassist Rick Baldwin.

At the conclusion of their second tune, "Hard Times," the band introduced Caroline Dahl, pianist for the Allstars for many years, who is now performing in San Francisco. Also joining the group onstage was Louisville's own legendary saxophonist, Michael Murphy.

The stage was set for some truly fine music. Dahl's fingers tore over the eighty-eights, while Murphy's lungs managed notes that most people could only reach with a ladder. Stump's guitar licks were spine tingling, highlighting Schaap's unique brand of vocals and rhythm playing. Hatfield's harmonica playing was soul reaching, and Baldwin's "bad" bass notes and White's unpretentious beat tied it all together.

The night was filled with such shining moments as Stump's delivery on "Night Patrol," and Hatfield's (pant! pant!) breath control during that same tune, as well as on "Dog My Cat." Schaap's singing on "Too Many Drivers" was superb, and a cover of Chuck Berry's "No Particular Place To Go," with Murphy on vocals, drew a standing ovation.

Charged by the excitement and chemistry on stage, the audience often found itself dancing in the aisles or to each side of the stage. MBA made sure no one left the hall that evening without lots of toe-tapping, hand-clapping and finger-snapping.

Perhaps it is the ten years these performers have had to get to know each other, but the sense of genuine respect for one another and each one's ability to manage his ego has made for an exceptionally cohesive band. The two hour plus concert showed off the talents of all the members and the guests, and in various capacities. Each sprinkled the evening with an occasional hug and a whole lot of smiling. The band's excellent performance was not only entertaining, it was a testimony to dedication and commitment.

But, then what would you expect? After all, they are the Metropolitan Blues ALL-STARS.