Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack, aka “The Night Tripper”) won some well-deserved attention last year, thanks to a terrific album called Locked Down. Producer Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys’ singer-guitarist) inspired Dr. John to make some of the spookiest, quirkiest music he’s made since his early recordings such as the classic 1968 album Gris-Gris.
Dr. John headlined Friday night’s show in a festival called Blues on the Fox, which is out in the far western suburb of Aurora. It was worth the trip. Dr. John played several songs from Locked Down, and even though he didn’t have the same lineup of musicians that Auerbach assembled in the studio, the songs retained their weird edges. His touring band, ably led by singer-trombonist Sarah Morrow, jammed out on the funky grooves.
Decked out in his standard sunglasses, hat and beads, the bearded, ponytailed Dr. John growled in a voice that didn’t sound all that different from the younger Dr. John of 1968. He’s one of those performers who seemed old before his time.
“I can get away with anything I say tonight because I’m on psychotic medication,” he said — probably a joke, alluding to the psychedelic flavor of his New Orleans blues-jazz-rock. Probably. When he dug into the keyboard notes of his biggest hit, 1973’s “In the Right Place,” it was impossible to resist the impulse to dance — or just move.