The LA music scene has an extensive and dark history of shady deals, but the one that currently affects the former members of South LA funk pioneers WAR has got to be among the shadiest. Under its terms, one guy from the original band, keyboardist Lonnie Jordan, retains the right to tour as WAR with whoever else on every other instrument, by permission of the manager, while the other four surviving members are forbidden to even mention the name. But they play on, regardless, on the belief that enough people will remember the classic songs they all created, put two and two together, and realize the obvious: while the Lowrider Band may be legally prohibited from calling itself WAR or even “ex-members of WAR”, it’s a lot more WAR-like than what passes for actual WAR these days. And it will be in Burbank this Saturday.
So much of the band’s appeal was based on the intuitive interaction of the band members, and the Lowriders exude that natural ease that only comes after decades of playing together. Harmonica player Lee Oskar, the band’s most distinctive voice, has grown only more virtuosic and adventurous with time. The rhythm section of Harold Brown and BeBe Dickerson still has the slippery, rubber groove first perfected on 1972’s The World Is A Ghetto. And the lead voice and guitar playing of Howard Scott are clear and strong. If the show matches up to the last one I caught, playing with Mandrill at the Ford Amphitheater a few years ago, you’ll be pinching yourself ten seconds after they start, unable to fathom the awesomeness.
Burbank’s Starlight Bowl seems a perfect venue for this event, a family-friendly amphitheater under the stars where you can BYOB, set up on a hill, with reasonable ticket prices to boot. Bring everyone you know, and make sure they all got their dancing shoes on.