08/02/2016 18:36 GMT | Updated 07/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Rock Survivor Eric Burdon Still Digs That Girl


After all the rock musicians who have passed away the past five or six weeks, making you almost loathe to check Facebook in the morning, it's time to celebrate those who are still kicking and entertaining audiences.

Take, for example, Eric Burdon, whose face should be in the dictionary under "journeyman rocker who's paid his dues." At 74, he's still doing what he does best -- bellowing classic tunes with a crack band behind him through much of the year. A concert draw around the world, scores of babyboomers are more than happy to pay to witness him sing his huge repertoire, especially since his deep baritone voice is still in fine shape.

Rising to fame amid Beatlemania with his band The Animals, these five working-class lads from Newcastle played a bruising rockified version of R&B, cranking out a bunch of hits over a two-year period.

At the Long Island gig, Burdon made a grand entrance to his 1970 hallucinatory hit "Spill the Wine" with the funk band War that still sounds like a hippie anthem, in which upon hearing you can't help but put a smile on your face and "dig that girl."

His current lineup of "Animals" are Tony Braunagel (drums), Wally Ingram (percussion), Red Young (keyboards), Billy Watts (guitar) and Terry Wilson (bass).

For the next hour and fifteen minutes, the band plowed through Animals chestnuts, including "Don't Bring Me Down, " "When I Was Young," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and, of course, "House of the Rising Sun."

Burdon never seems to tire singing this tale of a New Orleans brothel patron's hope for redemption, and he improvised a line "Forgive me for all my sins."

"Rising Sun" put the band on the map, No. 1 in the US and UK, but also played a role in its demise. Original keyboardist Alan Price was given a sole arranging credit for the traditional standard, providing a never-ending stream of royalties to which he had no right, creating a permanent fission in the band that remains to this day.

Backstage before his performance Saturday night at The Paramount in Huntington, Long Island, NY, Burdon called Price "the devil incarnate," as he was asked to autograph a vintage Animals LP. He then took the marker and drew a little Hitler mustache under the upper lip of Price's likeness.

When I mentioned original Animal Hilton Valentine told me two years ago that he was also still pissed at Price, Burdon's wife/manager Marianna told me that the guitarist

came to Burdon's gig the previous night, but didn't perform.

Three years ago, Burdon released a great album 'Til Your River Runs Dry (Abkco) with the prescient theme of water conservation, as the US media for the past two weeks has focused on drinking water in Flint, Michigan, being tainted with lead for two years before the government started taking measures to correct the problem.

The last time I saw Burdon play in 2008 he went into an anti-Bush tirade, so I thought the expat living in California since the late 1960s might get political, this being a US presidential year full of scary, divisive Republican rhetoric. But there was no endorsement from the stage for the 74-year-old Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

Burdon didn't play "Water" from the album, but he did "River Is Rising," and "27 Forever," the latter about his peer pals Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin leaving far too soon.

The singer was in his R&B element knocking out Ray Charles's "I Believe to My Soul" and back to back "Bo Diddley Special" (also from the recent album) and Bo's "Before You Accuse Me."

The concert left the punters satisfied, dipping into the Animals' catalog with a first encore of "It's My Life" and a second encore of "I'm Crying" and "Boom Boom."