DVD review: Red Devils at Moulin 1993
While the band looks beat up, they are as tight a musical unit as one could hope for. The devastating, muscular tunes show why the band became legendary in just a few short years, and why they imploded just as quickly.
Immediately, you see a different Lester Butler from the 13 era. He looks dirty and heavy, with a bandana failing to keep his long hair from his face. A baggy shirt drapes his frame, and he sways precariously from side to side. His eyelids are heavy, and he has a not-all-there smile on his face. It’s a wonder that he can stand up, let alone perform.
The mini-set starts off with “She’s Dangerous” in the now-familiar live style, with the stop-time riff gone in favor of a piledriving rock beat. Bill Bateman swings hard on the drums, flipping his wrist to emphasize the snare beat. Paul Size, shirt open, cigarette dangling from his lip, eyes half-open, plays aggressively. The Bartel brothers hold down the cool: Jonny Ray swinging his bass at his hip, while Dave Lee strums frantically at his Les Paul Goldtop.
A real find is a live video performance of “Blackwater Roll” — long sought-after from the EP of the same name, often mislabeled on bootlegs. To see what the band was doing with this song in concert is a revelation.
“We wanna do a tune we made up as a band,” Butler slurs, as he eyeballs the microphone suspiciously. After a bit more awkward stage banter, Size kicks off the riff and Bateman jumps in with an unstoppable disco beat different from the studio version.
Here Butler completely loses himself in the “I get high” lyrics, pumping his fist toward Bateman, as though the music isn’t hard/fast/driving enough yet. Bateman just whips the sweat off his head and continues pumping, while Butler takes a tremendous harp solo on the Devils’ least-blues tune yet. Interestingly, Butler sings the phrase “blackwater roll” on the last verse — different from the studio version, but still no indication of what the song is actually about.
The extras conclude with a straight-up version of “Goin’ to the Church.” A wide shot captures the crowd down front, threatening to start a mosh pit, a most unusual site at a blues festival. It’s an old-time demented revival, with Butler & Co. delivering the sermon with fervor. The band looks dangerous, bathed in gold light, a thin Jonny Ray smiling, Size dropping the lick in favor of lighting a smoke.
The song chugs faster and faster down the track, rocking back and forth; they may damage some cargo on the trip, but they’ll get where they’re going on time.
Professionally shot and edited, the video and sound quality on the Devils set is fantastic, quite a bit better than the 13 concert that headlines the disc. Factor in that video of this performance is hard to come by (several audio bootlegs are widely circulated), and you have the rare DVD extra that’s actually worth the price of admission.
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According to the festival Web site, the guitar was played by Size in 1993, and is autographed by Otis Rush.