Dick Dale at Continental Club, 4/17/2014
Walking into the Continental Club, I had the thought: "Can Dick Dale still do it at 76 years old?" I mean, I know folks younger that can't even send an email, let alone rip a guitar like it's going out of style. But I would soon find out that not only can he still play, but his guitar riffs sounded cleaner than ever.
Dale, who has had an off-and-on relationship with music since the late 1950s, likes to keep it simple, and proved that Thursday during a 90 minute set of mostly covers to an overly packed room. He doesn't need all the bells and whistles of modern technology -- just give him his Fender and a classic amp and he'll walk all over the youngsters trying to replicate his style today.
And at 76, Dale is rather spry. I can't imagine anyone thought he still could play his riffs with such vigor as he did, but he had no problem doing just that, and more. And a little after 10:30 p.m., when most folks his age are tucked in bed asleep, Dale picked up his guitar and began to let it sing.
I didn't really know what to expect from a full show of his, as he didn't have that many hits in his long career, but that was soon answered when he started playing familiar '50s and '60s guitar tunes to his own surf-rock, staccato picking style. While he's not a regular vocalist, he lent his words to classic songs like "House of the Rising Sun" and "Ring of Fire," letting the crowd howl out most of the lyrics while Dale looked out upon his adoring fans with a sly grin.
While some of his better-known tunes like "Misrilou" (which you might know as the lead song in Pulp Fiction), "Esperanza," "Let's Go Trippin'" and "King of the Surf Guitar" were performed, and played well, Dale's strongest efforts of the night came during his covers. He basically took every famous guitar riff of his time period and played it better than the original.
"Hey! Bo Diddley" had the crowd call-and-response down, while the medley of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and the Rivieras' "California Sun" was easily the hottest moment of the evening. I felt bad for anyone in the area, as they had to deal with the cathartic top-of-the-lungs screaming during "Rising Sun," while a take on Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" was a random yet welcome choice towards the end of the set.
Review continues on the next page.