Few bands that formed in the early 1970s have managed to survive and continue touring to the present day. Little Feat is one of the few that have, in no small part due to their outstanding musicianship and the idiosyncratic songwriting of founding member, Lowell George, which has stood the test of time.
This 1976 Winterland performance is one of the finest examples of Little Feat during the prime years of Lowell George, when the group had established a reputation as one of the most exciting and original bands on the planet. Lowell George's innate ability to craft songs with sophisticated melodies and intriguing lyrics, as well as the high production standards on the groups studio recordings, were key to the group's popularity and longevity. However, it was concert performances, such as this one, that truly established such a dedicated fan base that remains to the present day.
This concert, when Little Feat was opening for Electric Light Orchestra, remains one of their most legendary performances. Broadcast live on KSAN radio, parts of this performance were immediately bootlegged to vinyl and rapidly began circulating under various titles, the most common being "Rampant Syncopatio" and "Chinese Bejeezus," titles rumored to have been supplied by Lowell George himself.
It's no wonder that this performance became so popular, as it captures the band at the peak of the "Lowell George era," promoting the release of The Last Record Album. This album signaled the emergence of jazzier elements being incorporated into the bands sound, as well as stronger contributions from guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Bill Payne, which added greater diversity to the group's material.
The recording kicks off with a smokin' version of "Apolitical Blues," followed by a double dose of funky New Orleans flavored rock, with sizzling takes of "Skin It Back" transitioning into "Fat Man In The Bathtub." This establishes a deep groove that continues to intensify as the set progresses.
The middle of the set features several outstanding new songs by Barrere and Payne, "One Love Stand" and "All That You Dream," proving them a songwriting force to be reckoned with. Sandwiched between is an outstanding performance of Allen Toussaint's classic "On Your Way Down."
As great as this aforementioned material is, the set rises to another level entirely, when the band launches into "Cold, Cold, Cold." This is Lowell George at his most astounding; not only singing like his life depended on it, but playing devastatingly great slide guitar. His slide guitar technique, which utilized a Sears & Roebuck 11/16ths spark-plug socket wrench rather than the traditional glass or steel finger tube, is absolutely incredible here and utterly unique.
"Cold, Cold Cold" gives way to the ever popular "Dixie Chicken," one of the bands most popular songs, here featuring an extended jam that lets the band stretch out a bit. This eventually builds in intensity and transforms into a searing version of "Tripe Face Boogie." A solo section, first showcasing the percussion stylings of Sam Clayton and Richie Hayward, followed by an impressive keyboard improvisation by Bill Payne, is featured before they finish pummeling the audience into submission with the conclusion of "Tripe Face Boogie."
Seemingly in no hurry to hear the headliners, Electric Light Orchestra, the Winterland audience clamors for more. The band returns to the stage and Lowell leads them through the composition that helped facilitate him leaving The Mothers of Invention and forming Little Feat in the first place, "Willin'." (He elaborates on this prior to beginning the song.)
They close this incredible set with a ferocious take of "Teenage Nervous Breakdown."