Not only is it a representation of 4/5 of the band that will be on tour this summer, but it is the closest I’ll ever get to The Red Devils just as I heard them almost 25 years ago.
Flanigin’s tape was not labeled, so no clear info on date or location. But he recollects it was from that fall 1992 club tour. From there, two other clues: an emcee, just before the encore, beckons the crowd, “I don’t know Detroit, do you want to hear one more?” And Butler thanks the crowd for coming out on a rainy night.
The relatively short show — 11 songs in the set, plus three in the encore, about an hour and 35 minutes time — lines up with a listing in the Oct. 13, 1992, Detroit Free Press:
RED DEVILS, blues from LA, 8:30 and 10 p.m. Wed., 4758 Greenfield [Sully’s], Dearborn. 846-1920
So, this gig took place the night after I saw them at Jake’s in Bloomington, Ind., about five-and-a-half hours away.
I recall the band in Indiana being mean and hungry onstage but, to be fair, I also recall that whole night in black-and-white.
This tape is a better time capsule than my memory. There is some of that “gang” mentality Flanigin talks about. At the same time, you can hear the band warmup, tuneup and maybe even screwup. The crowd at one point grows listless, as someone shouts, “Play somethin’ different!” A guitarist responds with the riff to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which was out for about a year at this time.
The band is serviceable at the start of the show, with a loose “Off the Wall” opener, followed by “Shake Your Hips.” Everything about this screams “first set,” with lots of mic checks.
Butler’s vocal phrasing and harp tone on “She’s Dangerous” are on point, but the band loses the script on a rough “No Fightin’.” The song rarely shows up on bootlegs, and here the groove starts a little slow, and Butler can’t get into the rhythm, settling lyrically on “Cross Your Heart.”
It’s toward the end of the show that the band picks up momentum, first with Howlin’ Wolf’s “Shake For Me” (a request from a band member, Butler says), followed by the one-two punch of “Who Do You Love” and “Backstroke.”
We include here the encore for three rarities: “Okie Dokie Stomp,” “Sweet Little Angel” and “Cut That Out” (21:20).
B.B. King’s “Angel” is particularly mesmerizing, the band working the slow blues classic with intense dynamics and Paul Size’s perfect phrasing. Butler shines here as a singer, and this may be one of his more memorable performances. (Sidenote: Check the classic B.B. King album “Live at the Regal” for the definitive “Angel” — and check that familiar type style!)
Finally, the band ends the show as they end their album —“Cut That Out.” The shuffle just drives, all the way to the signature stop-time ending where the band’s telepathy is on full display. Remember: Flanigin had just been playing with the band for less than a month at this time.
This version of the band — Size, Flanigin, Jonny Ray Bartel and Bill Bateman — will be fronted by Big Pete on their summer reunion dates this year.
Red Devils, live at Sully’s Blues Bar, Dearborn, Mich., Oct. 14, 1992
- Off the Wall
- Shake Your Hips
- Blackwater Roll (to the “Scratch My Back” groove)
- She’s Dangerous
- Checkin’ Up On My Baby
- No Fightin’/Cross Your Heart
- Goin’ to the Church (starts slow and speeds up at the end, a la “Blues in the Morning.” Butler: “This song keeps changing every day.”)
- Devil Woman
- Shake For Me
- Who Do You Love
- Okie Dokie Stomp
- Sweet Little Angel
- Cut That Out
As a Detroit bonus, here is the Detroit News’ three out of four-star review for “King King,” Sept. 12, 1992:
Turn out the lights and you’d swear you’re in a Chicago blues club — sans yuppies and tourists from Ohio — listening to the sweltering wail of some old bluesmen.
But, obviously, you’re not. You’re sitting in your living room trying to figure out what exactly has happened to your stereo, because this five-man band of young harp-heavy retro blues belters has got it down so right — despite the poor recording quality — it seems so wong.
Out of Los Angeles’ roots-rock realm, the band includes former Blaster Bill Bateman on drums. The album is 12 tracks of covers — from Howlin Wolf to Sonny Boy Williamson to Muddy Waters — and original material, all recorded at live gigs at Los Angeles’ King King club, essentially a corner gin mill with a stage.
The Red Devils are the house band, and the recording is filled with the kind of buzz and uzz that makes you forgive the whisky stick on the tabletop.
— Scott Martelle
Since this post went up a few hours ago, based on a tip from Tim Narva, we found a couple more Red Devils gigs at Sully’s, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press archives:
- Friday, Feb. 24, 1993 (per Feb. 19, 1993, edition)
- 9 p.m. Friday, July 7, 1993 (per July 7, 1993, edition)