The Time I Cried At A Michael McDonald Show

Photo courtesy of Dana Gorab
I have found myself playing many different musical styles throughout my life as a musician. While jazz has always been number one, I’ve always found myself utilizing elements of rock, blues, R&B, funk and beyond - it has become a big part of my musical identity. Perhaps this can be traced back to some of my earliest experiences as a listener, which involved going through my parents’ record collection (in my early teenage years) and picking out all of the Steely Dan albums I could find. I would wear out the vinyl copies until I had enough money to go to Borders (remember Borders?) to pick up a CD reissue. It was around this time that I became an avid reader of liner notes, and I couldn’t help but wonder - who was singing the intricate and impossibly high background vocal parts on “Bad Sneakers”, “Kid Charlemagne”, “Peg” and “Time Out Of Mind”? The answer: Michael McDonald.

Not long after this, I discovered “Minute By Minute” by The Doobie Brothers, which then led me to Michael McDonald’s first solo album “If That’s What It Takes” from 1982 (Robben Ford’s solo on the title track is a favorite of mine). These two albums (along with a slew of albums by Steely Dan, Weather Report, Pat Metheny and Miles Davis) formed a lot of my earliest views on music, and still have a resounding impact upon me today.

It wasn’t until February 10, 2018 that I finally got the chance to see Michael McDonald live in New York. I knew it would be a great show, but it ended up being one of the most inspiring musical experiences of my life. Right from the beginning, the band sounded amazing. Michael launched into “Yah Mo B There”, and for the first time - I heard that distinctive, iconic voice in person. His voice had taken on a maturity that led me to feel that he sounded better than ever.

The night was filled with a combination of hits and newer songs, and sounded fresh and energetic from beginning to end. For me, the most stunning moment of the entire concert was a solo piano rendition of the ballad “I Can Let Go Now” - an unexpectedly emotional moment that (deservedly) received the most resounding applause of the entire evening. It is not often that you get to witness such a masterful and powerful performance. I left feeling inspired, and even wrote a song the following day called “Ocean Grove” (which is on my latest album “ACE”).

As a side note, I walked in wondering if I’d be one of the few people in their 20s in attendance. It was interesting to note that the audience was fairly uniformly made up of a broad range of generations, all the way from teenagers to people in their 60s and 70s - an incredible generational span. All in all, the concert was nothing short of an incredible musical experience.

- Ben Eunson, guitarist/composer