Sunday, October 10, 2021

Popa Chubby @ Olympia, Paris - October 10th, 2021

New York City's Popa Chubby is a bona fide superstar here in France, and consequently the Olympia is packed to the brim with twelve-bar connoisseurs and guitar aficionados flocking like pentatonic pilgrims to attend the twice-postponed Parisian return of the blues-rock heavyweight. 

It's hard to believe it's been over a quarter century since we first saw him in a now-defunct blues club in the West Village, back when he was being rightfully touted as the next big thing (both literally and figuratively) in muscular blues guitar, hot off the heels of his major label debut Booty and the Beast, on the then-recently resurrected Okeh imprint for Sony Music, produced by none other than the legendary Tom Dowd, who incidentally was the subject of last Friday's Playlist and damn that's a long sentence.

Twenty-five years and countless records later and we're happy to report that his playing is still as incisive and fluid as ever and his voice has lost nothing in power and expressiveness, equally at ease on hard rocking boogie numbers, swinging shuffle blues or delicate soul ballads. Still, time waits for no one and since we last saw him at the Bataclan in 2004, the aptly-nicknamed Popa Chubby now performs seated, which thankfully doesn't hinder the set's energy. Another difference since that time is the addition of keyboardist Dave Keyes, which adds a welcome soulful patina to the otherwise raw instrumentation.

Popa Chubby's imposing stature, his tattoos and his hard rocking charisma belie his congenial presence and the good nature that permeates his performances. These blues don't bring you down, they lift you up. They are an invigorating shot of rock and roll in a world that is still reeling from the trauma of the pandemic. And living up to the promises of his ribald moniker, sweating profusely, sparing no effort, beating his vintage Stratocaster into submission,  assaulting the eardrums of every consenting adult in the room, the man legally known as Ted Horowitz sits here tall and large, loud and proud, leading crowds the world over in a raucous paean to the sweet Goddess of Love and Beer.

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