Soul blues singer Curtis Salgado rocked the OK Theatre from end to end on Nov. 9. His rare northeastern Oregon appearance occurred through the auspices of the Wallowa Land Trust, who engaged the singer for its yearly fundraiser.
Local blues musician and OK Theatre owner Darrell Brann opened the show with four down-home blues numbers that brought the nearly sold-out theater crowd roaring to its feet.
Salgado’s band opened the night with several minute of uptown R&B before the man himself took the stage with a rendition of his song, “Downright Dirty Shame.”
The intensity of the show never let up despite a break so the land trust could speak about its mission to preserve the rural nature of the county. At one point, Salgado sent most of his band on break so he could perform several numbers on harmonica with guitarist Alan Hager including a pristine version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” to raucous applause. Salgado played harmonica with a deft touch, relying more on tone than speed or volume.
Salgado, the original inspiration behind the Blues Brothers (Dan Akroyd and John Belushi), has lost only a little off his high end vocally, more than making up for it with nuanced phrasing and emotional grit, something only gained by living the blues as well as singing them.
From virtually the second song onward, a large portion of the crowd had gathered at the foot of the OK stage and encouraged the band with shouts of approval and virtually nonstop dancing.
Not long before the end of the show, Salgado gave an impassioned plea to preserve the rural nature of Wallowa County. He talked of the changing developmental landscape of his beloved Portland home and recounted stories of his trips into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
The singer and his band played for more than two hours, leaving both themselves and much of the crowd in a near state of exhaustion. However, his attempt to leave the stage at the end ended in futility. Crowd members hadn’t heard enough, so the band returned to the stage for more music and spent some time afterward signing autographs while selling CDs and posters.
Wallowa Land Trust Executive Director, Kathleen Ackley, said that she chose Salgado because she had seen him a number of times over the years and his shows never disappointed. She personally appreciated his skill on the harmonica.
Ackley also said that Salgado and his management team were supportive of the land trust’s mission and were delighted to appear. Audience feedback to the trust confirmed her choice.
“We had a great turnout, and I have heard nothing but positive reviews from folks who attended,” she said.