Right off the bat, she exuded that rare strength and confidence, the kind that you can almost smell on a person. You’re simply transfixed by their presence. And, as she sat down at the keyboard with a natural ease, you knew that the sweat and the pain of the intense practice needed to birth this stunning virtuosisty was carefully pushed inside and hidden, so the audience would focus only on having fun instead of breathlessly watching the playing, the mark of a true performer.
Separated from the visual, Live! Down the Road loses some of its impressiveness since you can't gawk at her advanced skill level, but it somehow becomes even more fun because of it. Without the visual, you're just left with the music, and damn, what music it is. Marcia Ball’s band runs through song after song of her trademark blues, boogie woogie, rock n’ roll, zydeco, and a mess of other feel-good genres hybrid, all mixed together to get you on the dancefloor. And, to show that she’s mastered the live show, she expertly slows the whole evening down with a fine read of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927,” played with the kind of heart and compassion that makes you forget that it appeared on Newman’s venomous Good Old Boys. Throughout, you get the feeling that Marcia Ball is easily able to turn any song into a rip-roaring good time or something that boarders on soulful exploration, and when she does, life’s downers are drowned out by the sound of your foot tapping along.