WAR at Greek Theatre – A Sort of Homecoming

WAR is a band that emanated from the streets of Long Beach, were improbably embraced by the British RnB pioneer Eric Burdon and continued through the decades to build an impressive song catalog and fervent following. They recently headlined a double bill at the Greek Theatre (George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic opened), and a cross generational slice of Los Angeles enjoyed the evening.

The band’s co-founder Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan was the MC, standing center stage behind his keyboards and pacing the band though a solid set that drew from across the band’s career. Jordan recently discussed his delight in performing, and that delight was evident as he nimbly jumped from the stage in search for someone to sing along to “Cisco Kid.” A few folks were able to repeat the refrain, but inevitably Jordan found a dude who warbled through the entire opening verse.

Stanley Behrens’ excellent harmonica blended well with Scott Martin’s sax. Behrens heralded the coming Memorial Day weekend with a solo of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Sal Rodriguez provided a steady beat on the drums, and gave a stunning vocal turn on a lovely ballad.

Jordan riffed on the spoken word intro to the band’s first hit “Spill the Wine,” taking over what Burdon created nearly five decades ago. Other great songs included “Me and Baby Brother,” “Galaxy” and “Ballero.” Not a band easily compartmentalized, WAR moved easily from funk to R’nB to soul to AfroCuban jazz stylings. “Summer” and “All Day Music” ably evidenced the band’s cross-genre mastery.

But it was the monster hits that the crowd knew were coming, and WAR delivered “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and the inevitable “Low Rider” with aplomb.

(photos by Nicole Busch)

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.