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Concert Reviews:
Detroit's first Christmas Jubilee sounds like a winner

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2012

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DETROIT -- Seasonal songs may have been the order of the evening at Detroit's first Christmas Jubilee concert, but it was a couple rock classics that carried the night.

There was no question, or surprise, that headliner Patti Smith's one-two punch of "Because the Night" and "People Have the Power" were what brought the crowd at Masonic Temple's Scottish Rite Cathedral to its feet on Sunday (December 16) nearly three hours into the Jubilee's multi-artist array of Christmas tunes both reverent and decidedly off the jingle bell path.

But the good news was that while Smith's hits got everyone dancing -- including a Santa Claus lookalike (or maybe the real deal looking for some Detroit holiday spirit?) sitting near one of the fair aisles -- the rest of the show's repertoire packed more than enough firepower to keep them entertained.

Organized by Smith's guitar-playing son Jackson as a benefit for Gleaners Community Food Bank, the Jubilee offset any rough production patches with a well-prepared musical highlights by a variety of Detroit-based acts, from the Thornbills' "Do They Know Its Christmas" to Jody Raffoul's rendition of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" with the Thornbills' Tamara Finlay. Don "Doop" Duprie apologized "if I seem out of it. I got a call just before I came; my grandma got run over by a reindeer," then delivered gentle treatments of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Shorty's Song."

The Curmudgeons tore up a medley of "Empty Stocking Blues" and Tommy James & the Sondells' "Hanky Panky," while Vin Dombroski from Sponge and Crud did the same with Seduce guitarist David Black on "What Child Is This," assisted by the Sponge rhythm section of Tim Patalin and Jimmy Paluzzi. Thornetta Davis joined the group as an unannounced guest on Chuck Berry's "Run Run Rudolph."

Jennifer Westwood did triple duty, with her own three-song set and then lending her powerful voice to Dombroski on "Black and Blue Christmas" and Chef Chris for "Santa's Messin' With the Kid." Chris' musical rendering of "The Night Before Christmas" was a hoot, while Ty Stone muscled up "Little Drummer Boy" and "Blue Christmas" and brothers Luis and Mario Resto showed off their crafted compositions "Wrote To You Today" and "I Wonder If Anybody Knows," the latter inspired by Mario's regular work with Gleaners.

Besides her hits, meanwhile, Patti Smith offered some perspective by dedicating the poem "Children" to the victims of the recent school shootings in Connecticut and offered her own trio of holiday songs, cracking up during "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with Duprie ("I can (mess) up anything, even Christmas," she noted) and setting up "O Come, All Ye Faithful" with a sweet story about how her late husband, MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith, loved the song so much he insisted it be played at their wedding -- even though it was in March.

Smith also delivered the most welcome news of the night, promising the Jubilee audience that "We'll do it again next year" and that "every year will be stronger" -- a bold guarantee after an already strong start.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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