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She Came in Through the Bathroom Window

Joe Cocker killed it at the Backyard Sunday

By Raoul Hernandez, 5:27PM, Tue. Jul. 24, 2012

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Joe Cocker lifts the Backyard, 7.22.12
Joe Cocker lifts the Backyard, 7.22.12
Joe Cocker lifts the Backyard, 7.22.12
photo by Gary Miller

Sunday, we encored Wimberley's Blue Hole by buzzing over to Bee Caves' Backyard for Joe Cocker and Huey Lewis & the News. On board was a dear friend's teen sibling, who had zero interest in the bill. Given the talent's combined age of 130, we sympathized. “Still, she'll see an obit one day and say, ‘My sister took me to this when I was 14, 15,’” I told my spouse.

Her toe tapped a little during Lewis' opening, one-hour set, maybe during “Heart & Soul.” First encore “Power of Love” she definitely seemed to know, no doubt from its inclusion in Back to the Future. Hit songs in hit movies never die.

Lewis & the News' performance last fall at the Long Center felt like a film with the venue's big stage and a band accustomed to delivering the goods in swank halls. At the Backyard, approaching dusk, the band's sound and thus set dissipated slightly in the glorious open air, but left its mark on me nonetheless.

Lewis dedicating “Walking on a Thin Line” from 1983 smash Sports to all armed forces personal hit home for the assembled masses, while second and final encore “Workin' for a Livin” found new meaning in this bad economy. Seeing Red River punks come pay their respects to the Bay Area bandleader spoke to the power of Huey Lewis.

Surprise, then, came not during his set, but at the start of the one in which I went in with an attitude likely paralleling that of our junior most concert companion. I'd seen Joe Cocker opening for Tina Turner at the Frank Erwin Center in 2000, and while the Sheffield Steel belter was in perfect form, I didn't necessarily feel the need to see him again. I couldn't have been more wrong.

With both headliners doing hour-long sets, that was the absolute perfect amount of time for Cocker, who delivered one hit after another in his inimitable and undiminished soul rasp. The Beatles covers, “Come Together,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and first encore “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” were worth the proverbial price of admission ($40), but in the one-two punch of “Up Where We Belong,” which won an Oscar for Officer and a Gentleman in 1982, and “You Are So Beautiful,” Cocker came off timeless, a man who would live forever through his gift of interpretation. I'm still singing his opening take of “The Letter” two days later.

Rapt, I paid no attention to our young charge, but I'd already been thinking about Deep Purple organist Jon Lord, who died last week at the age of 71. His name had come up at the Cactus Cafe's Views & Brews series the day his death was reported, our metal/punk panel of the Big Boys' Chris Gates, screamer Jason McMaster, and Chronics Margaret Moser and myself bowing our heads with the rest of the venue in Lord's honor.

When I was 19, my sophomore year of college – 1984 – I caught Deep Purple's first reunion tour, the classic line-up of Lord, Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, and Ian Paice. I wasn't more than a nodding fan, yet they were mindblowing. I remember standing during “Space Truckin'” and virtually lifting off. Maybe it was the Southern California herb.

Hearing Lord had passed, I went to Waterloo Records and found a used copy of the group's comeback album Perfect Strangers for $1.99 on a dying medium, CD. (I also got Deep Purple peak Machine Head, a 2-CD remaster for $5.99.) Lord's ominous atmospherics are the first notes on Perfect Strangers opener “Knocking at Your Back Door.” I was grateful for having experienced something no longer there.

As the Backyard emptied after the show into the dust-covered parking lot, we all said our goodbyes with happy, sun-kissed smiles. Everyone had a good time. Summers are fleeting. So's music.

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