Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe


Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe tackles Stones’Sticky Fingers for Halloween

:: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe ::
:: Boulder Theater :: October 28 ::
:: Fillmore Auditorium :: October 31 ::

By Timothy Dwenger


Back in 1994 when Phish celebrated Halloween by covering The Beatles White Album in its entirety at the Glens Falls Civic Center they were way ahead of their time.  Today, not only are many jambands donning similar ‘musical costumes’ to celebrate holidays and delight their fans, but artists like Steely Dan, Dinosaur Jr., and Spiritualized are taking to the road to perform their own career defining records live in concert.

This fall, Karl Denson and his band The Tiny Universe are mounting a Western tour where they will perform the seminal Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers in its entirety. “This has been my favorite Stones record for years,” Denson said in a recent interview with The Marquee from Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in California, where he was getting ready for a live webcast with Slightly Stoopid. “We talked about a few records and decided to go with this one because it is really familiar to people,” said Denson.

Denson, now 54, has memories of The Rolling Stones that date all the way back into his childhood when he had the privilege of watching one the band’s first television appearances in the U.S. “I’m old enough that I actually watched The Ed Sullivan Show when I was a kid with my brothers and sisters and I remember seeing The Beatles on there and I remember seeing the Stones; the whole British Invasion,” he recalled. “I’ve known about the Stones since I was really little but I didn’t really start listening to them until I was 12 or 13 and started playing in little rock bands here and there.”

Ranked #63 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Best Albums Of All Time list, Sticky Fingers is a wide ranging collection of music that includes some of the Stones’ most beloved songs. The album kicks off with classic rock radio mainstay “Brown Sugar” and features the country tinged “Dead Flowers” and the oft-covered “Wild Horses.” While it’s these songs that might pull in the casual listener, at this point in his life Denson gravitates toward some of the deeper cuts on the album.  “When I was a kid it was always ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Bitch’ that I loved, but now that I have actually absorbed the record in full a couple of hundred times, ‘Moonlight Mile’ to me is the standout track,” said Denson.

Whether it’s “Moonlight Mile” or “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” Denson’s goal in undertaking this project is to not just play the album from start to finish, but to actually convey the passion that he feels for the songs and the vibe that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were trying to express when they wrote them back in the early ’70s. “I’m really out to see if we can give the people that know this record it’s proper treatment and get the emotionality of ‘Sister Morphine’ and the down the street vibe of ‘I Got The Blues’ across to them,” he said.

In addition to the members of The Tiny Universe, Denson has enlisted a couple of other musicians to help him achieve his goal. Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald from Slightly Stoopid will be joining the lineup for a couple of California dates, and New Orleans singer/songwriter Anders Osborne has signed on for the entire tour. “Anders is gonna put the hair on the project.  He is gonna be Ron Wood most of the time. Him and DJ [Williams] will share the guitar duties but we’ll have him do some singing to,” said Denson.  “I really want to sing ‘Bitch,’ but of course there are horns on that one so I’ll have to let Anders do it. We’re just going to share the singing duties.”

In addition to the classic songs and instantly recognizable vocals and guitar riffs, Sticky Fingers made the cut because it features some outstanding sax playing by one of Denson’s favorite horn players, the longtime Stones saxman, Bobby Keys. “I love his playing today but as a kid I was not familiar with him,” Denson admitted. “I had several occasions where I would be playing in some bar and some random drunk would walk up and go, ‘Hey, play some Bobby Keys, man,’ so it forced me to do some research. I found out who he was and I fell in love with his playing. I’ve been a big fan for a long time.”

While the promise of a full set of Rolling Stones songs, or a fiery two guitar attack, or Denson’s interpretation of Keys’ horn parts might be enough to draw a lot of folks in, the mastermind of The Tiny Universe is promising some additional incentive for their huge Halloween party at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium. First of all, Boulder’s own Rose Hill Drive will be performing The Who’s Who’s Next in its entirety and second, Denson is working to line up some additional special guests for the evening. While he didn’t have anything locked down, he did tease us a little. “I’m looking for somebody to come sing ‘Wild Horses’ with a special panache,” he said. “We are trying to get Biz Markie to sing it for us. It’s going to be something a little oddball, you know, but it will be really cool.”

:: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe ::

:: Boulder Theater :: October 28 ::

:: Fillmore Auditorium :: October 31 ::


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• The Rolling Stones

• The Who

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