By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

March 28, 2004

Both bluesmen and riverboats have traveled the water of Missouri's great rivers, so it probably makes sense that Eric Burdon and the Animals played a floating casino in St. Charles on Friday and Saturday nights.

Burdon and his original bandmates were the bluesiest of that first wave of Brits who invaded the States in the early '60s, reintroducing to white American kids the music of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley.

And Burdon is still at it. In the second show Friday night at the Bottle neck Blues Bar in the Ameristar Casino, Burdon and his New Animals delivered a set that, with a couple of exceptions, stayed within the three short years of Burdon's greatest commercial success, 1964-66.

Unfortunately, the narrow playlist meant that the Flower Power-era hits by Burdon's second Animals lineup - "Sky Pilot," "San Franciscan Nights," "Monterrey" - were ignored, as was his later funky smash with War, "Spill the Wine."

Burdon, who will turn 64 in May, still possesses an unruly voice that p erfectly serves his music. He may have lost some of his range - which was never all that wide - but he is still expressive, and he compensates by choosing lower octaves and nearly scat singing around troublesome notes.

Hitting the stage in black T-shirt, jeans and sunglasses, Burdon growled through "I'm a Man" while seated on a swivel stool before the band broke into a reggae version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," the first of several sing-alongs.

Hooker's "Boom Boom," featuring one of several sizzling keyboard solos from Martin Gerschwitz, morphed into Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" and then into one of the Animals' biggest hits, the anthemic "We've Gotta Get Out of This Place." Although the song was enthusiastically received and Burdon had lots of audience help singing it, it was only the fourth of the show, and it came much too early in an oddly paced set that lasted only 65 minutes.

After a new song, the drugs and guns saga "Over the Border" planned for a CD due out in May, Burdon and the band tore into the musical highlight of the night: a medley of Donovan's "Hey Gyp" and Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," both of which are built on the Bo Diddley beat. It featured a terrific stage-clearing, three-minute, tightly focused, stick-twirling drum solo - no, really - by Bernie Pershey.

The Animals' other '60s anthem, "It's My Life," preceded their first and biggest hit, "House of the Rising Sun," which, wisely, didn't even try to copy the magnificent Alan Price organ solo that marked the original. "Sun" turned into Jimi Hendrix's "You Got Me Floatin'" as the set ended.

But with "Sun" and the anthems already used up, the one-song encore of the Price/Burdon hit "I'm Crying" seemed anti-climactic, and fans were calling for "Sky Pilot" as the house lights came up.