Michael Deeds: Curtis Salgado kicks off Alive After Five

June 2, 2013 

Despite life-threatening health problems in recent years, charismatic R&B singer Curtis Salgado is back on the road and belting out his gritty vocals.

Singer Curtis Salgado used to think he would sell a million records - "easy," he says.

After all, the man inspired the creation of John Belushi's Blues Brothers characters when he was barely old enough to buy a beer. He sang for six years in Robert Cray's band. He toured as the lead singer for Santana. He seemed eternally perched on the edge of stardom.

"I've always dreamed that I would have a coliseum full of people, and they'd be pumping their fists and giving me the 'I love you' sign," Salgado admits, phoning from his hometown of Portland. "Nah. Didn't happen."

Instead, he'll perform for a Grove plaza crowd at the June 5 kickoff of Alive After Five - and he sounds thrilled.

It's funny how a liver transplant and two lung-cancer surgeries in the past seven years changes a guy's perspective.

"When this came, it gives you a whole - it's like who cares?" Salgado, 59, exclaims. "I'm lucky to be alive."

Sounding healthier, happier and fiestier than ever - and that's saying something about the legendarily sassy frontman - Salgado is visiting Boise for the first time in ... who knows? Neither of us can figure it out during a 45-minute, rambling phone conversation that keeps going off the record while Salgado uncorks entertaining anecdotes and opinions that a younger man with no comprehension of mortality might share publicly. (Corner Salgado off stage and ask him about the ominous song playing on the hospital boom box when they wheeled him in for his liver transplant. Great story.)

Without question, Salgado is firing on all cylinders, with or without all his original body parts. His latest album, "Soul Shot," cleaned up at the 2013 Blues Music Awards in Memphis. He won B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year and Soul Blues Album of the Year.

Yet it was just last June that doctors removed part of his left lung - the latest in his health battles.

"At first, it hurt to sing a little bit," he admits. "But that went away. I think your body kind of readjusts itself. Maybe the lung is stretched out a little bit. I'm really blessed."

If Boise music fans have forgotten what Salgado did back in the '90s that made him a Northwest staple and a must-see in Boise, they're about to find out again - in-your-face style. Salgado has always considered himself a rhythm and blues singer, so he and his band have the freedom to attack songs from a variety of high-energy angles.

"Basically, I can do blues, rhythm and blues, funk, soul and rock 'n' roll. So there's a lot there," Salgado explains. "It's all the same stuff; there's nothing new under the sun. It's just how a particular artist scrambles that omelette - what spice he throws in the musical palette.

"I know what I can do, I know what I can't. I wish I could sing like Stevie Wonder, but I can't. I wish I could sing like Donny Hathaway, but I can't. Or Sam Cooke. But you take all this stuff and you learn. That's all I do."

With a lifetime of experience and a newfound appreciation for performing live - and alive - Salgado should be one of the highlights of this season's Alive After Five schedule.

"You try to give the people their money's worth," he says. "They're going to show up to a concert or a fair, whatever, you want to put on the best show you possibly can - and give it your all.

"I've got the best band," he adds. "It's gonna be fun."

- 5 to 8 p.m. June 5, Grove plaza, 8th and Main streets, Boise. Opening: James Coberly Smith with LeAnne Town. Free.

TONIGHT IN 'THE OTHER STUDIO'

Along with co-host Tim Johnstone, I'll take a look at Alive After Five's lineup during June on tonight's radio show. We'll also discuss the latest concert news and spin a Steely Dan-tinged track from the surprisingly organic new Daft Punk album.

"The Other Studio" airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.

CATCHING UP

Did you miss my column in Scene on Friday? Here are a couple of things I covered:

- Eagle-based promoter CTTouring has cut an exclusive deal with CenturyLink Arena to do six to eight events a year.

What it means: Though it never left the scene entirely, Downtown Boise's arena is getting back into the non-sporting-event game. First up: political comedian Dennis Miller on July 27.

- Country station KQFC 97.9 FM has rebranded itself as Nash FM.

What it means: Not much to listeners - at least in the music department. But it will allow KQFC to take advantage of the national Nash brand, which is being pushed by station owner Cumulus Media.

IN SCENE JUNE 7

Got your low-back chair dusted off? Outdoor concert season is here.

We've got a guide to everything happening around the Treasure Valley this summer - from country to rock, heavy metal and beyond.

Michael Deeds' column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. Email: mdeeds@idahostatesman.com. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds

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