Katey Sagal and The Forest Rangers
Sons of Anarchy, Series Six Premiere
El Rey Theater
Los Angeles, CA
September 15, 2013
By Victoria Joyce
Photography by Mila Reynaud
On the third Sunday in September, the hit TV show, “The Sons of Anarchy” did a live concert at the El Rey Theater with its house band, The Forest Rangers and it’s leading lady, Mrs. Kurt Sutter, AKA Katey Sagal.
You didn’t know she could sing? Ms. Sagal started her career as a back up singer for Bob Dylan, Etta James and Bette Midler among others back in the day. Acting was Plan B.
Katey settled for Peg Bundy on “Married with Children.” “I’ve been singing since I was a kid. I started writing music when I was a teenager. I wanted to be a singer/songwriter when I grew up…that was my ambition. I really love being an actor, but music was my first love.” Her current role as Gemma on “SOA” is now in it’s sixth season. Oh, yeah, her old man Kurt Sutter is the show’s creator/producer.
Segal just might be the most talented and successful woman in Hollywood. Has anyone else crossed-over from mega hit comedy to super hit drama while doing the voice-over for cult hit, brought-back-from-dead animation series, “Futurama?” She’s the one-eyed alien with a ponytail. And her IMDB page is as long as your arm. Her third solo album will be released next month: “Covered.” But what she really wants to do is direct.
The Forest Rangers are headed up by SOA’s music supervisor, Bob Thiele and made up of seasoned sidemen. These guys are as good as it gets. The passion and precision in playing has an easy stride like riding a motorcycle. Coincidence? I think not.
Throughout the performance Katey demonstrated unbridled joy and chemistry on stage, the body language and eye contact with the other musicians, it was no surprise to hear her say, “I just want to be in the band! Yeah! Just me and the boys!”
The set began at the stroke of 9 with the cover of Leonard Cohen song, “Bird on a Wire.” Katie was wearing a leather-trimmed little black dress with patterned stockings and boots looking every inch the motorcycle, black Madonna, two-wheeled gypsy queen. The packed house went nuts.
Second song was “Free Falling” by Tom Petty with the whole audience singing backup vocals. She’s a good girl.
Like we said, The Forest Rangers provides the soundtrack for the show doing cover versions and incidental music. According to Thiele, “The Forest Rangers are much like a character on the show.” Which is just the best thing on TV if you don’t count “Breaking Bad.” And they are: Dave Faragher on bass, Greg Leisz on slide guitar and mandolin among others. Thiele explains, “This band is a floating scene. We got these amazing musicians that participate to create all this great music for the show. There’s really no active membership.”
Every time Katey mentioned the name of the television show from the stage the biggest cheer and Whoop Dee Doo went up from the crowd. “This might be my best gig ever!” Gemma was clearly overwhelmed.
Picking up a guitar for the third song, “Goodbye,” (from her new album out next month) and scrambling for a guitar pick, some clown shouts out “How about a date?” Without missing a beat Mrs. Sutter informed him “I got a guy you got to talk to first. And I wouldn’t f*ck with him.” More cheers.
Next song, “I Love You But Don’t Know What” was another mournful Country Alt ballad that used to be called Folk Rock. Katey’s voice is perfect for this. Very Patsy Cline.
Next up, Franky Perez from the Rangers stable took center stage and sang the Who’s “Slip Kid” giving it the same bleached out, So Cal, John Steinbeck grit that runs like a river through this concert and SOA. California, where the immigrants emigrate. Franky asked the audience, “Are you ready for outlaw music?” Rhetorical. There’s no easy way to be free.
Katie came back to cover Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My.” Out of the blue into the black, a perfect song perfect song with minimal backup, practically a cappella. The effect was haunting. Ms. Sagal brings her acting skills to the song creating a sad, stark, swirling drama.
Next up we were treated to Billy Valentine (on back up vocals), who sang Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” featured in the premiere episode shown earlier in the week. Stunning and soulful. Again with the grit.
Katey came back and sang the praises of the Jewish, white-girl, soul singers that she adored, venerated and emulated and treated us to a Laura Nyro cover of “Gonna Take a Miracle.” The taste of the set list was drop dead gorgeous.
Sideman Billy came back for “Follow the River,” with some nice slide guitar from Greg Leisz. Katey came back with the immortal Dusty Springfield hit “The Son of a Preacher Man.” More slide guitar, more soul, more gorgeous.
The family vibe took flesh with Katey’s 17-year-old son; Jackson joining the band and helped out on “Come Home to Me.” Mom was rearranging the microphones on stage for her son and not apologizing for it at all. It was lovely and the kid is a wonderful guitar player. The song had a jangly, Byrds-like, Hey Mr. Tambourine Man feel to it.
Another special guest was brought on named White Buffalo to sing “The House of the Rising Sun.” The Animals stole this arrangement from Dave Van Ronk, who stole it from Nina Simone. Like Judy Garland told Liza Minnelli, “It’s OK to steal, just steal from the best.” Done and dusted.
Buffalo was great. A grizzled old thing, he looked a lot like Bobby-Elvis (our fave rave SOA character) who was conspicuous by his absence. Mr. White has a rough and ready voice with a lot of soul and texture, looking a little lost with his long white beard long white hair.
Frankie Perez came back to sing “John the Relevator” a Biblical thing with references to Galilee etc. Then Franky and the Rangers went into the SOA theme song “This Life.” If you love the show. you love that song. We do, we do.
More love from Katie. She covered Lulu’s “To Sir with Love” and nailed it. Like to the Cross, three times. Thanking everyone and left the stage.
The crowd demanded an encore. Katey and the F’Rangers came back with Jackson Browne’s “For a Dancer.” Just do the steps that you’ve been shown, like everyone you’ve ever known. Until the dance becomes your very own. In the end, there is one dance you will do alone. Not a dry eye on the house.
The final, final encore was Bob Dylan’s “The Weight” made famous by The Band. With the whole Fan-Damily coming to the stage. Take a load off Annie. A perfect song ending a perfect evening.
Before hand, Katey announced other gigs. “We’re really looking forward to playing the El Rey and other shows we have booked, like the 110thAnniversary of Harley Davidson Festival, The Love Ride (30th Anniversary in Castaic Lake) and the Hardly-Strictly Bluegrass Festival (October 4, 5, &6 in San Francisco).”
Go along for the ride.
Bird on a Wire (Leonard Cohen)
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
I Love You But I Don’t Know What
Slip Kid (The Who)
My My Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) (Neil Young)
Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding)
Gonna Take a Miracle (Laura Nyro)
Follow The River
Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)
Come Home to Me
House of the Rising Sun (The Animals)
John the Revelator
To Sir With Love (Lulu)
For a Dancer (Jackson Brown)
The Weight (The Band-Bob Dylan)
Mila Reynaud Photography
Sutterink at Facebook
Sons of Anarchy at FX Networks
The Forest Rangers at Facebook