By Leland Smith
Moonalice shows what happens when major musical talents merge. Sharing the creative helm of the band is guitar superstar G. E. Smith, who served as the musical director of Saturday Night Live for more than 10 years, and Roger McNamee, guitar/bass, who serves as the band’s principle theologian. Roger and wife Ann McNamee along with Barry Sless on pedal steel and guitar, Jimmy Sanchez, drums, and keyboardist Pete Sears were all formerly known as “The Flying Other
After warmly greeting the audience and stating that their day in wintertime Alaska was “Truly Enchanting,” Moonalice took the stage at the Wilda Marston Theater of the Loussac Library Wednesday night. Leaping into Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” The haunting classic was re-tooled with a crunching rhythm guitar from Smith along with Sless, who replaced the organ part with gorgeous pedal steel work.
Former Rod Stewart keyboard man Pete Sears played refreshing ragtime and blues piano chops on his self-penned “Fair to Even Odds,” with his vocals often sounding like Dire Straights front man Mark Knopfler. Smith then belted out “Messin’ with the Kid,” a track he learned from Buddy Guy.
Next up, Ann McNamee sparkled on her sentimental ballad, “Slow Dance Waltz,” with drummer Jimmy Sanchez keeping flawless time. The band performed a tribute to Bob Dylan, knocking out “Like a Rolling stone,” as a show highlight.
Throughout the evening, each performer passed the baton of lead vocal and bass duties to the next band mate with every song change; all members performed with stunning skill and grace.
By blending elements of folk, blues and country and rock, each original song stands on it’s own legs and tells a story. Playing to an intimate group of 45 or so people, Moonalice had crowd members singing and dancing in the aisles.
It is unusual for a band to tour and not promote a record. Moonalice instead makes their studio material — produced by T. Bone Burnett, no less — available for free download along with several live shows at www.moonaliceband.com.
It’s worth the drive to Girdwood, where the band plays Friday and Saturday at the Sitzmark, to witness the dual guitar threat of Smith and Sless alone and, trust me, the rest of this band will blow you away.
CREDIT: Leland Smith plays music and writes about it in Anchorage.