During a pair of 2018 performances at the Beacon Theatre In New York City, the Doobie Brothers went deep into their catalog to perform a pair of albums, 1972’s Toulouse Street and 1973’s The Captain and Me, in their entirety.

The performances were documented on a recent live release and prove that the San Jose band hasn’t lost a step as it prepares to mark its 50th anniversary in 2020.

Recently nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band will be back onstage in the new year, putting down roots in Las Vegas for an eight-show residency at the Venetian. The effects of performing the two classic albums last year are evident in the set lists for the concerts the Doobies have been playing in the months that have followed, with some of the deeper tracks from the records sticking around.

The Vegas concerts, which begin on Feb. 7, will follow a similar path, mixing the group’s best-known hits with some unexpected choices. As guitarist and singer Patrick Simmons details, they’re still mapping out the specifics. “We’ve been saying that we’d like to do a few different things, probably -- some different songs that maybe people haven’t heard before,” he tells UCR. “We’ve got some brand new music that we’ve recorded, and we’re thinking about maybe pulling a couple of those out and learning them to play live. We’re going to bring a horn section with us, I think."

The Doobies have been playing selected dates recently with horns; Simmons calls the addition “something a little special for us and the audience.” He says it’s been a lot of fun having that added interaction musically with a full horn section, something that's helped to open up the well-known arrangements of some of the songs. “We’ll often give the horn players and the guitar players and [keyboardist] Bill Payne to stretch out a little bit and do a little improvisation here and there.”

The tweaks have led to some of the most enjoyable parts of the show for the band members. “That’s the moment when you get to challenge yourself and try different things," Simmons notes. "I really enjoy those opportunities to improvise and hopefully play something you never really played before."

He ties the experience to ones he enjoyed as a fan during the band’s tour earlier this year. “We were out with Carlos Santana this summer, and I just love to go hear him play," Simmons says. "I would go listen and Carlos has those iconic songs and iconic parts, but he’s another one of those guys that reaches further. Some nights, you hear him play and you’re just, like, floored. He floors the audience every night with what he plays. But I recognize it because I’ve been there night after night, so when I hear something, I just go, 'Oh my God, that never happened before.'”

Simmons also notes that fans can look forward to new music from the group in 2020. They have a batch of songs recently recorded with producer John Shanks (Van Halen, Goo Goo Dolls, Jon Bon Jovi). Initially, the plan was to release the music on an EP rather than an album. Simmons says even though they have “more songs” besides the ones recorded with Shanks, they’ll stick with that plan.

“We didn’t feel like it was worth making the kind of investment that it would take to get a full album, simply because the way that we see our music being presented is kind of one song at a time, as opposed to throwing a whole album out there,” he says. “We’ll just release a song here and a song there. I don’t see, at least for a band like ours, that people are going to be rushing to Walmart to pick up our newest album.”

Simmons says he's sworn to secrecy when it comes to discussing the particulars of new music. “We’re still kind of trying to figure out what’s going on with it all," he says. "I can say it’s some good rockin’ stuff and there’s one ballad. The rest is pretty much guitar-oriented rock 'n' roll.”

"It's totally different from anything we've ever done before, which gets me excited right away because I hate rubber-stamping something we've done already," bandmate Tom Johnston elaborated in an interview earlier this year. "These songs are in totally different directions, things I've never tried before vocally, musically. Everything is kind of different from what you expect to hear from normal Doobies, but it's still recognizable.”

Simmons says it was a really positive experience working with Shanks on the new songs. “He’s a great producer and we wrote together -- that was something different," he says. "He’s a great player too, so we could stand toe-to-toe and work on things together and see where we were going at any given time. I understood what he was doing and vice versa. We could embellish each other’s ideas, so that was really fun to work that way with somebody.”

 

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